Pirates – Long Blue Pete, Friends and Treasure Islands

Oliver’s topic at school for the last few weeks has been on Pirates.  He has really enjoyed this and was excited that his class assembly was going to be all about Pirates.  He came home with the script and we practiced his lines – first he would stand by the front door and recite them, and then he would race upstairs to his bedroom and recite them.  He was very loud and very clear!  He told us that he would be holding a microphone too.  The morning of the assembly dawned and we all went in to school together.  We dropped Oliver off at his classroom and saw all the cool costumes laid out ready for them to change into.  Owen and I went to the Theatre to wait for the production to begin!

The welcome screen on the stage.

The welcome screen on the stage.

The class made the Jolly Roger boat.

The class made the Jolly Roger boat.

Ready for showtime!

Ready for showtime!

We had asked permission for Isabelle to come and watch and so she joined us in the Theatre just as Assembly was getting started.  (Assembly is for Infants so it was all the classes in Year 1 and 2.)  After some announcements and recognition for “Stars of the Week” it was on to the main event.

The class started by introducing themselves – with their Pirate names.  Oliver’s was Long Blue Pete.

"My Pirate Name is Long Blue Pete"

“My Pirate Name is Long Blue Pete”  His teacher, Mrs Finan, is at the front.

As the show went on, Owen and I were amazed to see Oliver performing more than we had practiced.  All of a sudden he was also the Pirate King!

Long Blue Pete is on the right delivering a birthday present to the Pirate Queen.

The Pirate King, AKA Long Blue Pete, is on the right delivering a birthday present to the Pirate Queen.

It was a wonderful performance by a lovely group of 5 and 6 year olds.  They all sang beautifully, remembered their lines and obviously enjoyed being on stage.  Oliver closed it out at the end with his 2 lines that we had rehearsed.  Mrs Finan told us right after that the original Pirate King was sick and she needed somebody to stand in.  As Oliver had done such a good job learning the script (plenty of help from Isabelle too) she had asked him to “save the day”.  He did brilliantly and we were so proud of him.  You would never have known that he jumped in at the last minute.

"Thank you for watching and hope you enjoyed it!"

“Thank you for watching and hope you enjoyed it!”

All the parents took lots of photos at the end:

Chloe (Oliver's special friend!), Oliver and Lucy.

Chloe (Oliver’s special friend!), Oliver and Lucy.

What is really under a Pirate's eye patch?  Oh - it is an eye!!

What is really under a Pirate’s eye patch? Oh – it is an eye!!

Arrrr, shiver me timbers, are you ready to walk the plank?

Arrrr, shiver me timbers, are you ready to walk the plank?

Happy that it is over and happy that we were there :-)

Happy that it is over and happy that we were there 🙂

As well as practicing for the Assembly, Oliver also had a homework project to create his own Treasure Island.  We had fun finding things at home to make this – he had toilet roll and tissue paper palm trees, a jewelry box as a treasure chest, painted little pebbles for gold, brown sugar for sand, a volcano, pirate ship and pirate.  The finishing touch was a selection of Oliver’s shells that he has collected from our various trips abroad.  He worked so hard on this and the end result looked fantastic.

Oliver's Treasure Island homework project.

Oliver’s Treasure Island homework project.

China Air Quality – Smog, smog and more smog

Today is a beautiful day in Shanghai.  The sky is blue and I have a fantastic view from my office window across the city.  The AQI is 63 (US Consulate) or 57 (China local monitory) – a “good” day.  AQI is a daily topic of conversation among ex-Pats and locals alike.  What is AQI?  It stands for Air Quality Index and it is the measurement that is used for the health of individuals breathing the air every day!

A breakdown of the classification of AQI

A breakdown of the classification of AQI

China has been in the International news quite a bit over the last few months and it is all because of the appalling smog that is blanketing this Country.

Atmospheric particulate matter – also known as particulates or particulate matter (PM) – are tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter associated with the Earth’s atmosphere.  They are suspended in the atmosphere as atmospheric aerosol, a term which refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone.  PM 2.5 and PM 10 are two types of pollution involving particles too small to see with the naked eye – less than 2.5 or 10 microns in diameter.  Particulate matter, or PM, is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.  Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time.  Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke.  Others are so small that individually they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

Many manmade and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes.  Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system.  Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are referred to as “fine” particles and are believed to pose the greatest health risks.  Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs.

Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion activities (motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning, etc.) and certain industrial processes. Particles with diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers are referred to as “coarse.”  Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations, and dust from paved or unpaved roads.  Other particles may be formed in the air from the chemical change of gases.  They are indirectly formed when gases from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor.  These can result from fuel combustion in motor vehicles, at power plants, and in other industrial processes.  Often these consist of fragments of unburned fuel and are small enough to reach the lungs or, in the smallest cases, to cross into the bloodstream as well.

Airborne Particulate Size Chart.

Airborne Particulate Size Chart.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sets a maximum safe limit of exposure over a 24-hour period: 25 of the PM 2.5 particles in every cubic metre of air.  Levels above 300 are considered hazardous, while the WHO recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

Global AQI

Global AQI from Wednesday February 26th 2014

The Chinese government has launched an effort worth 1.7 trillion yuan (£180bn) to clean up power stations and traffic fumes.  Specific measures include closing down any power stations within the city that burn coal – or switching them to burning cleaner gas instead.

A new lottery system with very few winners is restricting the rise in the number of new cars and drivers.  Beijing already has five million cars on its roads, and greener cars will get priority.  Beyond that, a major push for renewable energy including hydroelectric, wind and solar is designed, in part, to help replace power generation by coal, the cheapest but most polluting fuel.

Hundreds of flights were recently delayed or cancelled in Shanghai as record levels of air pollution shrouded the city in smog, prompting authorities to issue the highest level of health warning.  That was especially embarrassing at a time when China seeks to build Shanghai into a global business hub on par with the likes of London, New York and Hong Kong by 2020.  (The Shanghai government issued its severest health warning as the city’s pollution index ranged between 23 times and 31 times the levels recommended by international health officials.)

On a recent flight into Shanghai’s PVG airport, I took these photos from the window.  You can clearly see the smog hovering above the city.

Clear blue sky above the smog.  This should have been a fantastic view for me across the city.

Clear blue sky above the smog. This should have been a fantastic view for me across the city.

What a pity that I cannot see the skyline…..

What a pity that I cannot see much below me…..  Again, the line between clear blue sky and the smog can be seen.

The smog is so bad that it "dims" the sun.

The smog is so bad that it “dims” the sun.

Look at this famous skyline from just across the river.  Smog is low and thick.  Many days seem to be like this in Shanghai now.

Look at this famous skyline from just across the river. Smog is low and thick. Many days seem to be like this in Shanghai now.

Last April a new health warning system was launched, and this year has been the first time that the Shanghai authorities urged residents to stay indoors and asked factories to either cut or halt production.

Air quality in cities is of increasing concern to China’s stability-obsessed leaders, who are anxious to limit potential unrest as more affluent citizens turn against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has polluted much of the country’s air, water and soil.  The people are increasingly vocal…..  The government has announced many plans to fight pollution over the years but has made little apparent progress.

BISS cancels all outdoor activity when the AQI is too high.  It is amazing that both my children refer to “Green” days, “Orange” days or “Red” days and know exactly what the implications are.

Employers are also concerned for their employees.  Last week, my company sent this email out:

Free Mask Dispensing for Employee

Dear colleagues,

As is known to everybody, more mainland cities have been increasingly beset by thick, acrid smog, posing health risks towards our health and safety.  In order to care for each member of our community and reduce this risk, GFM plans to dispense free mask for every employee in our Office with details as below;

Criteria: only AQI exceeds 200 based on local formal forecast.

Distribution Point: reception desk

Dispensing Rule: one piece for each employee and registration is required in line with staff list.

Usage Period:  approx. 7 days  (PM2.5 filtration efficiency 90%)

The air quality is a major concern to Owen and I and we do not let the kids play outside when it is bad.  We have industrial grade air filters in each of our bedrooms and living space at home.  BISS has air filters in each of the classrooms, so the school does not have to close when the AQI is too high.  I believe that this is the biggest single problem for China at the moment.  However, London had a similar problem back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Once the Government there got serious about fixing it, it was fixed 🙂  There is hope for the Chinese…….

World Book Day – Rolly & Cat in the Hat

BISS has been celebrating books all week.  One of the highlights of the week has been DEAR – Drop Everything And Read.  A teacher will pop their head into a classroom and shout DEAR.  Whatever class is going on, it stops and they all start reading.

They also had a book fair and all the kids had plenty of opportunity to spend their money on a wide selection of books.  Both Isabelle and Oliver found a couple of books that they liked!

Friday was Book Character dress up day.  Isabelle decided to go as Rolly (one of the 99 puppies in 101 Dalmations) and Oliver was Cat in the Hat for the day.

Isabelle’s costume was so easy as she borrowed some pj’s from a friend and I just painted some spots on her face.  Oliver’s was a little trickier.  I had originally decided to make a pop-up Dr Seuss hat, but after 2 attempts of following the instructions, it ended up as a normal hat.  Even so, it was well after midnight on Thursday before I had finished!!  I made him a bow tie, had some furry fur sewed onto a black hoodie and white gloves finished the look.  He was so reluctant to have anything (make-up/face paint) on his face, but I persuaded him that the look would not be complete without a black nose and whiskers!

The Infants (Year 1 and 2) had a costume parade and Oliver was thrilled to win the Boys prize for best costume!  Guess the late night was worth it!

Cat in the Hat and Rolly AKA Oliver & Isabelle

Cat in the Hat and Rolly AKA Oliver & Isabelle

Oliver was a little grumpy because he didn't want the "make up"on!!!!

Oliver was a little grumpy because he didn’t want the “make up”on!!!!

Oliver - winner of the Boys Best Costume posing with his girlie counterpart!  Glad to see he is smiling this time.  Photo is courtesy of BISS.

Oliver – winner of the Boys Best Costume posing with his girlie counterpart! Glad to see he is smiling this time. Photo is courtesy of BISS.

 

Daddy Daughter Masquerade Ball 2014

Saturday March 1st was THE social event of the year at BISS (at least, for the girls!)

The invitation

The invitation

Daddy Daughter Ball 2014 and it was a masquerade event this year.  This was Isabelle and Owen’s 2nd ball and the excitement level was high (at least, for Isabelle!)  As like last year, the girls have all been talking about, anticipating, discussing dresses, hair styles, nail color and shoes for weeks.  Also like last year, Isabelle designed her dress and right before Chinese New Year we again went to the Fabric Market to have it made.  She envisioned a purple creation of wonderfulness and was thrilled with the results.  We had spent hours looking at all sorts of dresses on the Internet to give her extra ideas, but her original description of what she wanted was pretty much what she ended up with.  (She does say that being a Dress Designer is one of her future career options!!)

In the afternoon we went to Maddie’s house and waited for Phoebe to arrive to paint her nails.  Purple, of course!  Then, we rushed around the corner to our local hairdresser’s to have her hair done.  Last year she had french braids and curls, and this year she chose to have 2 french braids joining at the back and then very straight hair.   Home to get dressed and put a little bit of make up on!  I did some glitter eye shadow for her and pink lip gloss.

Nail Painting with Maddie

Nail Painting with Maddie

Her beautiful french braid (wish she would sit still long enough for me to practice on her - then I wouldn't have to pay $3 to have it done by a professional!)

Her beautiful french braid (wish she would sit still long enough for me to practice on her – then I wouldn’t have to pay $3 to have it done by a professional!)

Owen was also getting ready, super-stud-Bond-like in his tux and matching bow tie.  My hubby and daughter looked amazing.  At 5:45 they left to enjoy the fun of the evening.

My handsome hubby and gorgeous girl.

My handsome hubby and gorgeous girl.

Isabelle was very specific about the detail on her dress!

Isabelle was very specific about the detail on her dress!

Oliver was testing the various masks we have at home and couldn’t resist getting in a few photos!

With masks on!  Isabelle is ready to go with her lovely furry cape.

With masks on! Isabelle is ready to go with her lovely furry cape.

Even Tetley got in on the action.

Even Tetley got in on the action.

This was the plan for the night:

The evening plans

The evening agenda

I think Owen was a little bit relieved to also see this sign:

YEAH!

YEAH!

The Dance Floor

The Dance Floor

Once Daddy and Daughter had left the house, Oliver and I got ready to go to Katrina’s house.  10 lovely lonely ladies (plus 6 sons!) met to share some nibbles and cocktails while the D&D’s were dancing!  Oliver had fun with some friends while the Mums were enjoying adult girlie time.  At 9:30 the party goers returned and we continued it for another couple of hours.  Initially there was lots of action from all the kids, but this is what it looked like after about 30 minutes:

Movie and chillax time!

Movie and chillax time!

Thailand Part 3 – Koh Samui

Chinese New Year holidays were upon us and we were off to Koh Samui, Thailand to escape the fireworks, cold weather and air pollution.

In true fashion, I had left it quite late to book this trip at one of the busiest travel times in China.  So, we ended up returning to Thailand – Koh Samui this time, and taking the kids out of school 2.5 days early.   So on Monday January 27th we set off for Shanghai airport to enjoy 12 days in the warmth, sunshine and clean air of Thailand.  We flew into Bangkok to connect with our flight to Koh Samui island and were totally amazed to bump into Sheila O’Neill who was checking in for a girlie getaway!  We only know 9 people in Bangkok, so to see one of them at that particular time was funny!  We had a quick catch up before we left for our different flights.

We were picked up at the airport by a lovely man driving a very luxurious, spacious van.  A good omen for a great holiday!  A short 15 minute drive from the airport and we arrived at our Villa at Kanda Residences at the north end of Chaweng Beach.  Owen had researched many places for us to stay and had picked a fantastic villa for us.  A 3 bedroom place with a private pool very close to the beach, in a facility that had a good restaurant and a couple more communal pools, plus a private beach.

We quickly unpacked and then all collapsed into our beds.  The last 3 or 4 months have been incredibly busy, stressful and tiring for me.  The last quarter of our year is always busy with major sales cycles coming to a close, a major customer event, plus planning for 2014.  I felt like I had not had a chance to take a breath and enjoy life or my family.  The year had also started in a crazy fashion with our sales kick off, year end reviews, bonus calculations and settling down organization changes.  I was exhausted!  I spent the first couple of days frantically closing HR and bonus issues before I finally was able to relax and completely switch off.  This is a rare time of year where China shuts down and I knew that I could decompress because everyone else would be off too.  So, for the first time in a year, I did not feel under pressure to check email or follow up on anything – it was bliss.

Oliver relaxing in the pool at our villa.  "This is the life, Mum!"

Oliver relaxing in the pool at our villa. “This is the life, Mum!”

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I slept late, worked a little and chilled by the pool.  The kids loved our pool and were perfectly happy to be entertaining themselves with endless hours of swimming and games.  Owen was exhausted from his trip to the UK and slept and read alot too.  We found a Tesco and stocked up on supplies so that we could enjoy our paradise cocoon.  I did not realize how stressed I had been as I could actually feel it lifting as the days went by.  I was sleeping better and enjoying the simple pleasure of being with my family with no itinerary and no agenda.

We booked the resort Spa experts to come to our villa and pamper us all.  The kids experienced their first massage (a “baby” massage – but didn’t tell them that is what it was called!)  We all had our treatments in the Sala by the pool.  They both loved their experience!  Owen had a lovely foot massage while I had a relaxing body massage.  How wonderful to experience that while chilling in the warm weather.

Isabelle and Oliver getting totally spoiled with massages in our villa!

Isabelle and Oliver getting totally spoiled with massages in our villa!

We went into Chaweng Beach a couple of times.  We spent a couple of hours wandering around the market stalls.  We bought a couple of bedside lights for the kids – made out of coconut and shaped into animals.  Isabelle’s is like an elephant and Oliver’s is shaped like a buffalo.  Oliver also got a lovely pair of Foakley sunglasses (that is Fake Oakley!)  We explored the wonderful beach by the villa.  It is very private (there was no-one else there when we were there) and a mix of interesting rock pools and small pebbles.  It is not a beach for swimming because of all the rocks.  But, it is a children’s paradise for finding things!

Rockpool exploration at Kanda residences

Rockpool exploration at Kanda residences

By the steps on the way down to the beach.  The kids are holding onto the shower (made out of bamboo!)

By the steps on the way down to the beach. The kids are holding onto the shower (made out of bamboo!)

Oliver found a coconut and Isabelle found a sand dollar.

Oliver found a coconut and Isabelle found a sand dollar.

It was so disappointing to see so much rubbish washed up on the beach.  This sandal had obviously been in the water for a while, judging by the shellfish that had attached itself.  This was one example of nature merging with man made mess.

It was so disappointing to see so much rubbish washed up on the beach. This sandal had obviously been in the water for a while, judging by the shellfish that had attached itself. This was one example of nature merging with man made mess.

The deserted beach.  This is the Kanda Residence Villas nestled into the hills.  A beautiful place to recharge!

The deserted beach. This is the Kanda Residence Villas nestled into the hills. A beautiful place to recharge!

Daddy with his little explorers.  The buckets came back full of shells, rocks and other interesting "stuff"

Daddy with his little explorers. The buckets came back full of shells, rocks and other interesting “stuff”

Isabelle as Queen of the Castle on the rocks.

Isabelle as Queen of the Castle on the rocks.

Oliver as King of the Castle on the rocks

Oliver as King of the Castle on the rocks

Owen pretending to eat a dead crab that he found in the rock pools.

Owen pretending to eat a dead crab that he found in the rock pools.

We poured over the island information brochures and told Isabelle and Oliver that they could pick 1 thing each that they wanted to do.  Isabelle chose Quad Biking (separate post) and Oliver chose Coco Splash – a water park (separate post), Owen and I chose a private boat charter (separate post).  We booked the boat charter for Saturday February 1st, the water park for Monday 3rd and Quad biking on Wednesday 5th.  This was a perfect combination of planned activities and then days with nothing to do except relax, swim, eat, drink, read and play.

Family in the infinity edge pool at Kanda Residences.

Family in the lower children’s pool at Kanda Residences.

The infinity edge pool at Kanda residences is wonderful.  The views from here are lovely.

The infinity edge pool at Kanda residences is wonderful. The views from here are lovely.

"Hey Guys"

“Hey Guys”

Owen horsing around with the kids!

Owen horsing around with the kids!

Our first meal out was to the Spirit House Restaurant.  We had asked our resort concierge for some recommendations for some good Thai food.  Owen and I both love this cuisine and were eager to eat authentically.  We had a lovely meal in a lovely location (but not sure how authentic it was, especially after our Quad Biking day!!).

Isabelle and Oliver at the Spirit House Restaurant.

Isabelle and Oliver at the Spirit House Restaurant.

Cuddle time between courses!

Cuddle time between courses!

One of the offerings at the Spirit House restaurant.

One of the offerings at the Spirit House restaurant.

Oliver & Isabelle by a wall sculpture in the Spirit House Restaurant

Oliver & Isabelle by a wall sculpture in the Spirit House Restaurant

Offerings to the Gods all over the place!

Offerings to the Gods all over the place!

We bought some Chinese lanterns from a beach vendor and let them off by our pool.

Isabelle and Oliver watching Daddy make sure that the Chinese Lantern is full before letting go.

Isabelle and Oliver watching Daddy make sure that the Chinese Lantern is full before letting go.

Up, up and away.  The white light to the right is the Moon.  This is very soon after the "New Year".

Up, up and away. The white light to the right is the Moon. This is very soon after the “New Year”.

A lovely meal out was at Tree Tops in the Anantara Lawana resort.  The tables are set on raised stages in the trees.  It is a molecular cuisine which particularly pleased Owen as this is what he is studying at the moment!  I had ordered a lychee martini cocktail that was made at the table and then served over dry ice – the kids thought this was really cool as my drink was surrounded in smoke!!  Owen’s cocktail was also made at the table but was not as visually stunning as mine.  A unique feature of our meal here was a Salt Guru/Sommelier.  She brought over a selection of different salts and then gave Owen and I a couple to try with our main meal.  It was a very nice meal.

A "smoking" Lychee Martini!

A “smoking” Lychee Martini!

Our Tree Tops "welcome" drink

Our Tree Tops “welcome” drink

Non-alcoholic version for the kids!

Non-alcoholic version for the kids!

We ate at Eat Sense after our day at Coco Splash.  This was a lovely beach side restaurant with some wonderful Thai food.  It was very busy the night we were there and I was glad that we had placed our order before a massive group of Chinese people arrived.  I had to laugh at the table next to us – it was a table of 12 and ALL of them were on their smart phones.  One of their group was obviously upset by this and made them all hand them over to him.  He wrapped them all up in a napkin and put it under the table!  Then, all of a sudden, the conversation started to flow, laughing and animated for the rest of their meal.  I guess some things are universal and you don’t need to speak Mandarin to understand that whole interaction!  I was pleased to see this – we have a “no technology” rule when we are eating too!

The Wet Bar at Akaryn Samui Resort and Spa was upscale Pizza night for us all.  82 different pizza’s on the menu and we were spoilt for choice.  This was another fantastic beach side table in another lovely resort.  Our table was right by the ocean waves crashing on the sand – so soothing and relaxing to eat with the music of Mother Nature playing behind us.

Pizza by the beach

Pizza by the beach

After one particular hard afternoon of shopping, we realized that it was getting late.  As we walked down the main strip, we were debating about getting a taxi, when Owen saw Red Snapper restaurant across the road.  We did a quick Trip Advisor look up and saw that it was rated high so headed in for our dinner!  Owen and I both had yummy flank steak followed by limoncello spheres for dessert.  This restaurant had some very colorful lights behind the bar.

Our Red Snapper dinner

Our Red Snapper dinner

Lemoncello Spheres that burst in your mouth!  Owen is going to attempt to recreate these at home.

Limoncello Spheres that burst in your mouth! Owen is going to attempt to recreate these at home.

The lit up bottles at the bar in Red Snapper restaurant.

The lit up bottles at the bar in Red Snapper restaurant.

Our last night in Koh Samui and we ate at Coco Rock.  This restaurant is located in the Coral Bay resort very close to Kanda.  It was a beautiful location and the evening light was fantastic for some good photos.  The menu had a combination of Thai cuisine and International favorites.  Owen and I both chose Thai options – Phad Thai for Owen and Massan Chicken curry for me – yummy!  Owen finished off with Tiramisu, Isabelle had ice cream.  Oliver and I were too stuffed for dessert!

On the beach by Coco Rock restaurant.

On the beach by Coco Rock restaurant.

Beautiful light for photos.

Beautiful light for photos.

Me and my girl in our matching vacation dresses bought the day before in a local Koh Samui shop.

Me and my girl in our matching vacation dresses bought the day before in a local Koh Samui shop.

After our wonderful day on the boat, we decided to eat at the restaurant in Kanda (Rockpool Restaurant).  They had some interesting evening entertainment serenading us to help celebrate the Lunar New Year.  Owen and I were not sure how many of the group were ladies or if they were all part of the famous Thailand lady boys that often entertain tourists.  Either way, it was a pretty average performance!!

Entertain at Rockpool Restaurant.

Entertain at Rockpool Restaurant.

Isabelle and Oliver liked sitting up at the big bar table overlooking the ocean at Rockpool restaurant.  Owen took this cool shot of the wind capturing her hair!

I like this photo of the wind in Isabelle's hair.

I like this photo of the wind in Isabelle’s hair.

Even though we were in a private villa, we still had some of the amenities of a hotel/resort.  When we returned from dinner on Lunar/Chinese New Year, we each had a fortune cookie and a delightful little colorful purse with a shiny new coin in it.  A very nice touch from the resort!

New Year gifts

New Year gifts

Thailand is a beautiful Country.  The food is delicious, the people are welcoming and friendly, the air and the ocean are clean (relatively!!) and the pace of life is relaxed.  We all enjoyed a very relaxing holiday here and will definitely try to return to visit another area of this wonderful part of the world.

Quad Bike Fun

Our day started out with a pickup truck to collect us from the villa.  The front cab was already full so we (me – reluctantly) got up into the open back.  The kids thought this was sooooo cool.  We obviously had a couple more stops to pick up other riders at their hotels/villa’s so we got a good tour of Koh Samui island!

A "selfie" of us in the back of our ride to the Quad Bike facility!  A cool way to see the Island.

A “selfie” of us in the back of our ride to the Quad Bike facility! A cool way to see the Island.

We even got pulled over by the police.  I am not sure what our driver was doing to get pulled over, but we were stopped for nearly an hour while he went to pay a fine.  Meanwhile, we were all watching the police pull over anyone not wearing a helmet on the many bikes/scooters that you see on the roads here.  It was comical seeing some of the riders trying to get out of the fine by turning around before the road block.  However, there was a policeman stationed further up the road turning them back around!!  Contrary to popular belief, there is a helmet law in Thailand and you must wear one.  Owen and I joked that the police were hustling for money – we must have watched at least 100 get stopped!

Once we were back on the road, we had a hair raising journey up twisty turny roads towards the top of one of the mountains on Koh Samui.  Breathtaking views across the island and could clearly see Fisherman’s village in Bophut as well as to Chaweng on the other side of the island.  The lush green vegetation on the mountain sides is thick and dense.

The view from the top of the mountain to the coat (Fishermans Village in Bophut in the background).

The view from the top of the mountain to the coat (Fishermans Village in Bophut in the background).

We pulled into the Quad Bike facility and were greeted by smiling, friendly and apologetic staff.  Because of our unscheduled stop, we were late starting…..  However, this did not stop a fast start to the day.

In total, we were a group of 10 – the 4 of us, 2 Aussies, 2 Russians and 2 Chinese.  There was a choice of several different types of Quad Bike and the girls were recommended the lighter, smaller bikes, while the boys had the heavier, more rugged and powerful bikes.   We all got helmets and then listened to the safety and operational briefing.  Owen and I had both been quad biking before.  Our friend Paul who lives on a wonderful piece of land in Indiana, USA had hosted us several times where we had experienced the joy of quading!  I am very glad that I had done this before and knew how the bikes handled, otherwise I would not have been comfortable taking Oliver on mine.

Oliver and I ready to go!

Oliver and I ready to go!

Oliver and Isabelle on the "man bike".

Oliver and Isabelle on the “man bike”.

Raring to go…..

Raring to go…..

I was on one of the “girlie” bikes with Oliver sitting in front and Owen was on the “man” bike with Isabelle in front of him.  We were excited to start!  The group set off with Owen and I taking the rear of the convoy.  We were out for about 90 minutes on the first trail around the mountains.  We stopped for a drink at a place that was building a sleeping Budha.  Again, more spectacular views across the mountains to the ocean either side.  This trail was a little tame for Owen and I, although it was a great introduction for beginners.  It was funny watching the novices tackle the bumps and holes and hills!  Oliver loved it from the beginning and was laughing for most of our trip.  Isabelle said it was a little scary to start, but she thought it was “fun and wonderful” once she relaxed into the experience.

Relaxing at our first stop.

Relaxing at our first stop.

This is how Pineapple's grow!  There was a whole plantation down this particular slope.

This is how Pineapple’s grow! There was a whole plantation down this particular slope.

The "sleeping Budha" being built.

The “sleeping Budha” being built.

Oliver wanted to ride by himself after the morning session!

Oliver wanted to ride by himself after the morning session!

 

We headed back to the facility for lunch and it was superb.  Some of the best Thai food that I have ever eaten.  It was cooked by locals and we had 3 different Thai curry’s and the yummiest fried vegetable fritters, plus rice.  I had 3 plate fulls before I realized that I had definitely eaten too much!!  The sweet watermelon and pineapple were a perfect ending to a delicious meal.  This was a completely unexpected bonus to this great day out.  The only downside was the toilet (yes, I am back on THAT subject!)  Isabelle and I both needed to use “the facility” after lunch and were dismayed to see that it was a squat!!  Needless to say, Isabelle decided to wait…….  I am getting quite used to these now so it was all ok for me!!!

Isabelle and the view from our lunch table.

Isabelle and the view from our lunch table.

After lunch, we were back on the bikes for part 2.  Oh my goodness, what fun we had.  The afternoon trails were spectacular.  We went through lots of water, which Oliver and Isabelle both loved, and the trails were much more challenging.  Lots of hills, tight turns, rugged terrain and large bumps and holes to navigate over.  I let Oliver control the speed of our quad bike and it turns out that he is quite the natural – he knew to keep a safe distance from the bike in front, but was a speed demon through the water so we got soaked multiple times!  I only had to take over on a couple of the more challenging, steeper hills.  He LOVED it.  It turns out that Owen was also letting Isabelle control their bike with similar results.

So. Much. FUN.

So. Much. FUN.

We stopped at a beautiful waterfall where we all had a swim/wade, took pictures at the top of the waterfall and generally enjoyed the wonderful scenery, ice cold water and relaxing environment.

The afternoon break by the waterfall.  This was the top river section that we all had fun swimming/wading in.

The afternoon break by the waterfall. This was the top river section that we all had fun swimming/wading in.

Oliver braving a little rapid.  He enjoyed this "water slide"!

Oliver braving a little rapid. He enjoyed this “water slide”!

At the top of the waterfall.  It was about a 60' drop down, which does not show up well in these photos.

At the top of the waterfall. It was about a 60′ drop down, which does not show up well in these photos.

It was great to have so many people willing to take family shots.

It was great to have so many people willing to take family shots.

I love this family shot as the water appears to be caught in motion behind us.

I love this family shot as the water appears to be caught in motion behind us.

The only thing that we wished for was more photos of us on the bikes!  We were so busy enjoying the action that it was difficult to remember to take some action shots.  What a fantastic, fun day out.  And, the best Thai meal of our vacation!!

Coco Splash water park and more

Oliver’s activity choice in Koh Samui was Coco Splash water park.  After a leisurely morning in our pool we jumped in a taxi to take us to this Adventure Park.

Coco Splash Water and Adventure Park

Coco Splash Water and Adventure Park

There is so much more to do here than just a few water slides: bumper boats, go karts, bungee trampoling, an air bag jump, a large inflatable castle and a Tree Top climbing area.  I was totally amazed when we got inside the park to see that it was quite empty.  I think I only counted 4 or 5 other families.  We were definitely outnumbered by the staff!  This was fantastic for our day here.  Isabelle and Oliver went on all the slides without any waiting.

"Hmmm, do you think that bucket is going to tip water all over us?" Me…. "No, of course not!!!!"

“Hmmm, do you think that bucket is going to tip water all over us?” Me…. “No, of course not!!!!”

"Oops, did I say no!"

“Oops, did I say no!”

Big Splash

Big Splash

The water swings were fun.

The water swings were fun.

No waiting for any slides meant that they both were exhausted by the end of the day, as they just kept running around and going again and again!

No waiting for any slides meant that they both were exhausted by the end of the day, as they just kept running around and going again and again!

So much fun!

So much fun!

As well as water slides, they also had bumper boats.  We all had fun splashing one another in these.  Again, we were the only ones on this little lake having fun in boats.

Coco Splash is clean and obviously well maintained.  There are plenty of attendants keeping a watchful eye on everything.  The little cafe has a large selection of drinks, ice lollies and ice cream and we had several in the hot afternoon sun.  Although this is not a large park there is certainly enough to keep our 2 occupied for the afternoon.

After the bumper boats, Isabelle and Oliver both wanted to do the trampoline bungee jumping.  Isabelle had 2 go’s on this during the afternoon.  After all, there was no-one else doing it……..

Perfectly straight jumping!

Perfectly straight jumping!

Enjoying the breeze while jumping

Enjoying the breeze while jumping

Coco Splash also has inflatable bouncy castles that both kids enjoyed, plus a giant inflatable air bag that you jump into from different platform heights.  From the ground this did not look very high and I ran up the stairs to give it a go.  But, once I was on the platform I was paralyzed by fear.  Now, one of our family motto’s is “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”.  We have managed to get Isabelle and Oliver to try so many different things but using this quote and living this quote.  Owen even quoted it to me from the ground.  I could not explain to him (or the kids, or myself) that I physically could not jump off the platform.  It was only about a 10′ leap onto the air bag and I had watched Owen do it and the attendant.  It looked so simple and easy but I just could not do it.  I was so disappointed in myself – 10 years ago I never would have even hesitated.  I was so disappointed in the example I was setting to my children, but I JUST COULD NOT JUMP.

On to the go-karts…..  I did not want to do this so I said that I would take photos.  Isabelle, Oliver and Owen got very attractive blue hair nets on, ready for the helmets!   However, when they walked over the track, they realized that Oliver was not tall enough for the big go-karts.  The little ones did not require a helmet so he could not wait to get his hair net off!  Isabelle started off on the adult track in the big go-karts, but they were a little hard to handle and she kept crashing into the tyres.  So, half way through their track time, she switched to the smaller ones and raced against Oliver.

Owen ready to go

Owen ready to go (note the very attractive blue hair net under his helmet!)

Owen managed to get quite the speed going and left dirt clouds behind him.

Owen managed to get quite the speed going and left dirt clouds behind him.

Oliver racing against Isabelle.  He is so competitive!!

Oliver racing against Isabelle. He is so competitive!!

The smaller (but still fast) go karts that Oliver and Isabelle finished their track time in.

The smaller (but still fast) go karts that Oliver and Isabelle finished their track time in.

This was a very relaxing day out.  The park was so quiet it felt like our own playground!  We chilled in the massive beanbags by the pool:

Chillaxing in the bags

Chillaxing in the bags

Oliver splashing about in the pool.  He was the only 1 in at this time!

Oliver splashing about in the pool. He was the only 1 in at this time!

Reviewing the next slide.

Reviewing the next slide.

This is what the park looked like for most of our day there - empty!!

This is what the park looked like for most of our day there – empty!!

Loved these flip flops that were on Sale in the Coco Splash shop.

Loved these flip flops that were on Sale in the Coco Splash shop.

A Diamond Day out

Owen and I have fond memories of  a private charter boat tour in St Thomas (many years ago now and before kids!)  When we saw the reviews for a similar experience in Koh Samui, we knew we would have to try it again, but with the kids this time!

Our day started at 9.30 with a taxi pick up from our villa.  Oliver called this the BEST TAXI ever as it was a super large van with disco lights in the ceiling and captain chairs all round.  This was the start of our superb experience.  Scott welcomed us on the dock and walked us down to the “Diamond” Catamaran – a 32 foot luxury boat.  It had plenty of space for sitting, walking and lazing.  There was a dinghy on the back, plus paddle board and a really cool Blade Fish, which is a James Bond like gadget that you hold on to and it propels you wherever you want to go.  This was great for tired legs and VERY FUN.

The Diamond.

The Diamond.

Everyone on board and ready to go!  Captain Bernie and Nojo are our hosts for the day.

Everyone on board and ready to go! Captain Bernie and Nojo are our hosts for the day.

Aye, Aye Cap'n

Aye, Aye Cap’n

Aye, aye, Cap'n

Aye, aye, Cap’n

After a safety briefing, Scott left us in the capable hands of Captain Bernie and first mate Nojo.  These 2 made our day outstanding.  Captain Bernie immediately saw that I liked to take photos and he picked my camera up many times to take photos of us all because we were all too busy having fun or in the water!!  We left the dock and headed out across the ocean to another Thai island for snorkelling and messing about in the ocean.  This took about 45 minutes at top speed, during which both kids got to drive the boat, which they thought was the best thing!

Captain Oliver in charge!

Captain Oliver in charge!

Captain Isabelle's turn.

Captain Isabelle’s turn.

We are in good hands with these 2 at the wheel!!

Nothing to do but relax and enjoy the kids being in charge, for once!

Nothing to do but relax and enjoy the kids being in charge, for once!

We all had lots of fun on the boat – Captain Bernie even managed to get photos of Owen and I messing around!!

Messing around part 1.

Messing around part 1.

"Shall I push him over board?"

“Shall I push him over board?”

Going…. going, but holding on!

Going…. going, but holding on!

Oh - how we laughed!!

Oh – how we laughed!!

Aah - he knows I didn't mean it!!

Aah – he knows I didn’t mean it!!

Kids relaxing on the bean bags at the front of the boat.  These were soooo comfortable.

Kids relaxing on the bean bags at the front of the boat. These were soooo comfortable.

A lovely family shot.  A very enjoyable day on this fabulous boat.

A lovely family shot. A very enjoyable day on this fabulous boat.

It was lovely to get photos of Owen and I too!

It was lovely to get photos of Owen and I too!

Once we arrived at the bay, it was time to drop anchor and play for a bit!  We all went snorkelling and this was the only disappointment of the day.  As this area had been billed as the best in Thailand my expectations were high, however the visibility was poor and I did not see much.  There had been some storms the previous week and this apparently had clouded the ocean.  The kids still had fun with the Blade Fish and just swimming around.  Nojo was excellent as he also got in the water to keep an extra sets of hands and eyes on our 2!  We all had a go on the paddle board – Oliver was the only one who managed to stand up long enough to go anywhere.  As soon as I stood up long enough to try to put the paddle in, I lost my footing and fell in – over and over again.

All 4 of us snorkeling.

All 4 of us snorkeling.

Isabelle standing up on the Paddle Board.  Did not last long!!

Isabelle standing up on the Paddle Board. Did not last long!!

Oliver doing very well on the Paddle Board and even managing to paddle!!

Oliver doing very well on the Paddle Board and even managing to paddle!!

At least this looks like Owen is a pro!  Seconds after this, he fell off!!

At least this looks like Owen is a pro! Seconds after this, he fell off!!

So much fun for all of us in the Ocean!

So much fun for all of us in the Ocean!

Isabelle trying out the Blade Fish.  She loved this and thought it was the coolest way to get around in the water!

Isabelle trying out the Blade Fish. She loved this and thought it was the coolest way to get around in the water!

Isabelle and Oliver paddle boarding together!

Isabelle and Oliver paddle boarding together!

Nojo got the Dinghy down and took us over to the sand bar that separated 2 islands.  This was really cool as you could see 2 separate currents meeting at this point.  The currents were quite strong and when I was snorkelling I did not realize how far I had drifted away.  It felt like a long swim back…….  I also felt tiny pin pricks on my arms and legs when I was in the water.  Captain Bernie said they were tiny (almost invisible) jellyfish, but Nojo (the local) said that it was actually plankton having a nibble!

Off to the Sandbar with Nojo navigating.

Off to the Sandbar with Nojo navigating.

The sandbar were the 2 currents meet.  This was taken from the boat in the bay, where we had dropped anchor and had been snorkeling, swimming and paddle boarding.

The sandbar where the 2 currents meet. This was taken from the boat in the bay, where we had dropped anchor and had been snorkeling, swimming and paddle boarding.

Nojo taking Isabelle and Oliver out…...

Nojo taking Isabelle and Oliver out……

Having a leisurely morning spent in this way, we returned back to the boat to find Captain Bernie serving lunch.  It was delicious – cold cuts, salad, fresh fruit – simple but so welcome after our morning activity.  There were plenty of drinks on board, Owen and I had a couple of glasses of Champagne too!

Ice cold Champagne to wash down a delicious meal.  "Cheers"

Ice cold Champagne to wash down a delicious meal. “Cheers”

After lunch, Captain Bernie gave the kids some bread to through to the fish and hundreds of them came up to eat!  Now, where were they when I was snorkeling!!

Isabelle and Oliver feeding the fish!

Isabelle and Oliver feeding the fish!

There were 100's of them!

There were 100’s of them!

Captain Bernie was outstanding – nothing was too much trouble and he made sure that we did exactly what we wanted.  He was very entertaining (movie director before this career change!) and had some interesting stories to tell.  He was genuinely interested in us all and in ensuring that everyone was having a good time.  Nojo was brilliant too – very hands on with the kids and helping them on and off the boat (what felt like a thousand times!) and then holding the paddle board steady for them.  He let them both have a go at rowing the dinghy and was always smiling.

The boat was so luxurious with beds and bean bags on the front to laze on, a top deck where the Captain area was plus more sitting areas here, a well stocked galley and large dining area at the back.  There were snacks galore – cookies, sweets and fruit.  Isabelle and Oliver both helped themselves multiple times throughout the day!  They were particularly caring about our “no-nut” menu (for Oliver) and we could relax about that.

Isabelle and Oliver both fell asleep on the ride back to the dock – gently rocked by the boats motion and exhausted from so much water activity.  The squeals of delight from both of them during the day made it so much more special for me.

Afternoon nap time for Oliver.

Afternoon nap time for Oliver.

And for Isabelle!

And for Isabelle!

We even participated in a boat rescue on the way back to the dock!  We saw a stranded couple in a boat looking gloomily at a engine in pieces!  Captain Bernie threw them a rope and we towed them close enough to the nearest harbor for them to be able to get local help!

Watching the wake was so relaxing.  Stress? What Stress?  This is definitely the way to get rid of stress and totally relax!

Watching the wake was so relaxing. Stress? What Stress? This is definitely the way to get rid of stress and totally relax!

Colourful local Thai fishing boats.  They drop 1 anchor (so as not to disturb the coral too much) and then tie themselves together.    Trying to be green!  I was appalled at the amount of trash on all the beaches that gets washed up.  Both Captain Bernie and Nojo said that it was a cultural thing for the locals to throw stuff overboard, but there has been a lot of education to try to prevent it in the next generation.

Colourful local Thai fishing boats. They drop 1 anchor (so as not to disturb the coral too much) and then tie themselves together. Trying to be green! I was appalled at the amount of trash on all the beaches that gets washed up. Both Captain Bernie and Nojo said that it was a cultural thing for the locals to throw stuff overboard, but there has been a lot of education to try to prevent it in the next generation.

The wonderful coastline on our way back.

The wonderful coastline on our way back.

It is wonderful here.

It is wonderful here.

We will all be talking about this day for some years to come as there were some seriously cool memories made yesterday by Scott and his excellent team.   We came home tired but elated.

End of a wonderful day.  Captain Bernie was a superstar!

End of a wonderful day. Captain Bernie was a superstar!

We all had fun with Nojo.

We all had fun with Nojo.

Kids making fun…….

I always find it amazing how children can make their own fun.  Here is a video clip of Isabelle and Oliver using the sofa base cushion to slide down our stairs.  They did this over and over and over again!  Uncontrollable giggles galore.

Tetley loved watching the kids sliding down.  After 1 trip, she laid down on their “slide” and it seemed like she wanted in on the action!  Both children begged me to let her come down with them, but I had to be the party pooper on that!

Tetley trying to join in!

Tetley trying to join in!

The ability for children to make believe is also something that I love watching (and sometime participating in!)  Isabelle and Oliver have been busy lately making dens.  These are sometimes castles, sometimes caves, sometimes tents but always fun.  Teddies and lovey’s make their way into their stories and games. Oliver loved his den so much that he spent a couple of nights sleeping in it.  Of course, he was surrounded by so many of his teddies that I wondered it there was any room left for him.  Many times, Tetley wants to join in and she tries to squeeze her way into the small spaces that the kids have built.

One of the completed dens.

One of the completed dens.

Oliver ready for sleeping in the den.

Oliver ready for sleeping in the den.

Even though there are times when the 2 of them do not get along and they irritate one another, generally they are so good together and will play so well.  They build on each other’s ideas and will give and take pretty evenly.   I love watching their relationship develop and deepen.

I love my brother/sister!

I love my brother/sister!

We love Tetley too!

We love Tetley too!

Cream Pie fun

Owen returned from 1 of his UK trips with a new kitchen gadget.  It is a ISI Whip (gas pressurized squirty can that uses nitrous oxide – the Dentist laughing gas).  It is wonderful for making whipped cream in a can within seconds, which is loads of fun for the kids.

Isabelle getting her mouth filled with whipped cream.

Isabelle getting her mouth filled with whipped cream.

Oliver's turn!

Oliver’s turn!

Owen had really enjoyed experimenting with his new gadget.  This meant that we had soooooo much whipped cream.  What better way to use it up but to create a good old fashioned cream pie and then test it on the kids!  Neither of them thought that Owen would actually do it, which makes the end result even more hilarious.  I cannot remember when I laughed so much.  The video clip is 33 seconds long.

Oliver - still in shock that Daddy actually put a cream pie in his face!  Isabelle couldn't believe that Daddy then rubbed it in even more in her hair!!

Oliver – still in shock that Daddy actually put a cream pie in his face! Isabelle couldn’t believe that Daddy then rubbed it in even more in her hair!!

Tetley had fun on clean up duty!!