Zenchai was going stir crazy on the aeroplane back to Thailand. We had a five-hour layover in Bangkok after our Air Asia flight had been cancelled. Tired, hungry and cooped up, Zenchai gave us a testing experience. Kobra slept most of the way. Aeroplanes just aren't designed for young children.
We stopped in Kuala Lumpur the first night as we couldn't get a connecting flight that day on to Singapore.
KL airport is a long way from the city centre. But we elected to use the train instead of taxi or bus or coach (as we'd done in the past). It's far cheaper, more efficient and comfortable. The trains are fast and slick, like in Germany. It made travelling a far more pleasant experience.
Kobra attracted a lot of attention from travellers, many of whom had their picture taken with her like she was some kind of celebrity. It bordered on the ridiculous.
Anyhow, by the time we arrived in KL city centre, checked-in to our hotel and dropped off our luggage, it was time to head out again. We had a family appointment - a play date for Zenchai with his second cousin at a playcentre in Bangsar Village shopping mall. He had been looking forward to it for ages. Z and his cousin ran around for hours. Money well spent. Zenchai also received a belated birthday gift - a Monster Truck book, which he loved. Afterwards we went for a Banana Leaf dinner after which it was time to head back to the hotel (by train) and then get up in the morning for our mid-day flight to Singapore.
Getting to KL airport was quicker than heading into the city when we arrived. On the train we met a nice English/French-Moroccan family with a young boy. Zenchai wasn't too sociable at first, but later warmed up a bit.
I had been to Singapore before, but it was the first time for Jamie and the kids. As we were about to land, the captain made an interesting announcement, warning against bringing into the country knuckle-dusters, swords, guns and numb chucks! What sort of people go to Singapore, I wondered?
Then, of course, he reminded everyone about the stiff penalty for drug-smuggling - mandatory death sentence. They may as well have added raw almond butter to the list (more on that later).
I had an exam to sit in Singapore, but squeezing in any last-minute revision wasn't easy with a family in tow. Hours after arriving and nursing a deltoid injury, I headed to Reebok Crossfit Enduro for a workout. Some 90 power cleans later my shoulders somehow felt better. Jamie and the kids amused themselves at a park nearby and then in the gym while they waited. Zenchai got creative with all the equipment.
All hungry, we went in search of food. We didn't find eating in Singapore very easy. It's all Chinese, mostly fried, high on meat and starchy carbs and laced with msg. We settled for some veggie soup. Zenchai had a juice and some rice. Then it was off to bed - late - after a long walk in the still-ultra humid conditions.
The next morning I had to wake up Zenchai from a deep sleep. He had a training appointment at 9am at Crossfit. We caught a train and walked the rest of the way. He did some running around and lifting. On the way home, he felt proud - and didn't stop talking about it.
We were all hungry by the time we met up with Jamie and Kobra. But then we made our worst purchase of the weekend. Seeking out durian, I bought a 2kgs one, noticing a sign that said $10 per kilo. I asked "how much?" and the reply came "$14". But it turned out to be "$40" and not "14". By then I had already eaten it. That's a whopping £20 for a durian!!
If it took Jamie and I hours to get over the shock, at least the kids weren't fussed. We decided to seek out a play centre. The hotel gave us directions - by train, bus and then on foot.
We found it - eventually. First, though, we stopped at an upscale restaurant called The Living Cafe that was right up Jamie's street - lots of delicious raw food desserts, but at near-jaw-dropping prices.
We each had a slice and then headed off into the heat on foot with only approximate directions. Of course, half a mile down the road Zenchai decided he needed the toilet (No. 2) and there was nowhere to go and no cab to be found to take us quickly where we wanted to go.
In spotless Singapore, we had to find some bushes and be as discreet as possible! Anyone with children knows these things happen.
Onwards we marched, sweat dripping and Jamie and I taking turns carrying Kobra. We passed a doggie day care resort only for Zenchai to remark that Kobra needed to go there for some brushing up - because her hair "was messy like a dog's".
Finally, we tracked down Fidgets Play Centre at Turf City, a huge shopping complex. Although it wasn't cheap, it was worth it. We hardly saw Zenchai, who in quick time was running around and playing with other kids. Kobra enjoyed it as well. Parents usually take a seat, grab a coffee, read a magazine and let the kids run wild. There are TV cameras to help you locate or observe your child. It was, for want of a better word, mayhem. But this was a Saturday afternoon.
The highlight for Zenchai was getting his face painted - as The Joker! The other children gathered round as Zenchai underwent his makeover. He said he really liked the woman painting him, because she reminded him of his grandmother in England.
"She spoke exactly like grandmere and was the same size," he said.
But for someone not wanting attention, Zenchai sure attracted a lot of glances, particularly on the train on the way back to our hotel and a shopping mall at Clementi Station, where we stopped for dinner. As soon as he returned to the hotel, he had me wipe off the paint.
The next morning for breakfast we set off to Little India, where Zenchai polished off a Masala Dosai. He'd missed them since leaving Kuala Lumpur. We found a place which offered quality food for excellent prices.
On the way back to our hotel on foot we passed a giant supermarket - the type that sold absolutely everything. If the durian was our purchasing disaster of the weekend, buying some clippers to cut Zenchai's hair was the greatest deal. For the equivalent of a few haircuts (£7.50), I came out of the store with a fine electrical appliance.
I left Jamie and the kids at a playground while I returned to the hotel to prepare for my test. I met up with them later and we headed off into the Arab quarter for some dinner. More disappointment: no falafel; moussaka that was plain and didn't have the advertised chick peas; ran out of pita bread; inflated prices etc.
The night wasn't over. We went to bed, but at 2.30am while everyone was fast asleep, I tiptoed around the room to get dressed and went around the corner from our hotel to watch England's exit on penalties (again) from the Euro 2012 against Italy.
It was around 5am when I returned to sleep. Singapore was still pretty busy. I took Zenchai out for some coconut water and flesh for breakfast and then strolled with the kids around the block while Jamie did the packing.
Little did I know I was wondering through a red light district. Prostitutes were all over the pavement and they swarmed over Kobra, pulling at her little cheeks and trying to take her away from me for a cuddle. Quickly, I got her out of there. Zenchai reacted angrily when they tried approaching him. Too much attention for the kids. It was time to head out of town.
Jamie had finished packing. We walked to the train station and then headed to the airport, let the children play for a while at the many excellent kids' facilities, got some food and checked in.
We flew to Bangkok airport, which was busy, and had time to kill. Although the clouds gathering outside looked stormy, I suggested we head into the sprawling city by train for some food. First we checked in and it was laughable to see the line of passengers at the next kiosk heading to Chennai, India - all with flat screen TVs!
It took about 40 minutes in and 40 minutes out by train. It was raining so hard that we couldn't really go anywhere. We purchased some food (but could find nowhere to eat it) and turned around. By then the trains were packed. That was our experience of Bangkok.
By the time we reached the airport again it was nearly time to board. We scoffed down our food and headed through security, which is where the raw almond butter (mentioned earlier) comes in.
We'd bought a nice, big jar in Kuala Lumpur, because we can't find it in Chiang Mai. But security in Singapore deemed it a liquid and said we couldn't bring it through.
We'd carried it in our hand luggage from Kuala Lumpur, so thought nothing of doing the same from Singapore to Chiang Mai.
I could see the fury on Jamie's face when the security man, doing his job, of course, wouldn't back down.
"Don't mess with my almond butter!" told the story of my wife's painful expression. But he took it from us and, without waiting for us to go out of sight, dropped it into a bin. Ouch!!
"Do you realise how expensive that is?" said Jamie.
That was the final straw to what was becoming an arduous journey. It was late when the plane touched down in Chiang Mai. Zenchai had shuffled in his seat like he'd dropped a jar of ants down his shorts. We were relieved to get off the plane.
Our car was in the car park. We located it (eventually), paid 1,000 baht (£20) and headed home.
As we drove, listening to Cat Stevens for about the 1,000th time, I remarked how great it was to live so close to the airport - about 10 minutes. Getting to the apartment was effortless, which is more than can be said for the rest of our adventure.