Creative thinking? (Ao Nang/Rai Leh, Thailand)

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We’re now in package tourist ville. Ao Nang, Krabi, is a major hub for both backpackers and holidaymakers. Families pushing their strollers through the crowded streets are a common sighting. Row upon row of shops selling fake t-shirts, swimwear, bags and wallets line the beachfront and you can’t escape the shouts of “You want massage madam?” “Maybe a new handmade suit for you sir?” every ten paces.

We leave the buzz of Ao Nang for a day on the more laid-back beaches of Rai Leh. A ten-minute long tail boat journey later we pull up on the crystal clear shores of Rai Leh West.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Arriving on the golden beach at Rai Leh

Rai Leh is home to stunning beaches typical of the Thai picture postcards. Having become increasingly popular over the past 10 years, particularly amongst rock climbers, many of the beach front locations house plush 5 star resorts where prices for a room average £100 a night. With a considerably smaller budget, (just slightly!!!) we track down the low-key huts located further up the hill (Cabana resort). The huts are basic; bed, mosquito net, fan, toilet, shower and a wooden deck looking out onto the stunning scenery. It’s very simple but very cost effective at B400 per night (£8).

Normally operating on a first come first served basis with no pre bookings, the owner, on the basis that we are travelling with a baby, very kindly allowed us to make a forward booking for both us and our friends, Phil and Tereza, who are flying out to meet us in a couple of days time.

Our afternoon was spent on the beach. ‘The boy’, having mastered his running skills, tires himself out so quickly he now takes marathon snoozes. We laid him under a tree, popped a hat over his eyes and…sleep.

Backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' taking his 2 hour afternoon nap

If you’ve been to Thailand before you’ll be accustomed to the ladies who are quite persistent in convincing you that you would like a massage on the beach. I’ve spent many holidays trying to avoid them, partly because they’re overpriced and partly because I’ve never fancied being covered in massage oil knowing that half the beach is going to stick to my rear as soon as I move. How quickly things change. No sooner was ‘the boy’ asleep the massage price negotiations started.  Three of us lay side-by-side, two having a relaxing massage and one, well just relaxing in a deep baby sleep. Ideal.

Backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Phra Nang bay, Rai Leh

Two hours later, when ‘the boy’ awakes, we clamber onto the long tail to make the return journey back to Ao Nang. We share the boat with a handful of other families. After travelling light for so long, and this being the first major tourist destination that we’ve been to, I was surprised by the amount of baby paraphernalia that was being carried. Inflatable beach toys, large bags of colourful buckets and spades, baby life jackets and in one case, baby ear mufflers to dampen the sound of the boat’s engine.

It’s amazing how much baby ‘stuff’ you can pack when going away on holiday.  When we went away earlier this year ‘the boy’ had the lion’s share of the suitcases. We packed the ‘just in case’ clothes, toiletries and toys, but it proved to be unnecessary weight and space as we didn’t even use half of it.

Backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' almost knows these nursery rhymes by heart now!

When you’re backpacking space is limited. We have minimal clothes, toys and baby books, but ‘the boy’ seems perfectly happy with his lot. Shells, pebbles, fallen coconuts and leaves become play items on the beach. Empty water bottles become skittles to knock down with his ball and bright coloured leaflets advertising tourist attractions help to keep him occupied.

He may not have lots of toys, but the ones he does have give him a huge amount of pleasure. We’re hoping that by having to be imaginiative in his play it will help him develop a more creative way of thinking.

What do you think?

Top tip of the day:
We’ve found the stacking cups to be the most versatile toy that we brought with us. He loves stacking them, knocking them down and on the beach we can use them to dig, make sandcastles and collect water from the sea. They’re numbered and brightly coloured so as he develops he can continue to learn.

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2 responses »

  1. Hi Sue,

    I’ve really been enjoying your blog, but I think this is my favourite yet. I love the idea of the boy happily running around with his beach-bounty toys, while everyone else is turning up with a ton of plastic trinkets. That’s the way to play!

    It sounds like you’re having an amazing adventure and I love the trail you’re blazing. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    Lots of love Matt & Rachel x

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