Kids see things that we don’t. I’m not referring to the otherworldly – it’s more this sort of thing: We are with our 3-year-old sitting outside The Den (I always think it’s an underappreciated family venue), and my son Daniel says, "Daddy, look!" We look up, and there above our heads is a group of lord-knows-what-with-wings, presumed birds of prey, circling high above us. Most big people would never have noticed. And these rarefied if random powers of perception are just one reason why traveling with a little one is just, oh, so much fun.
Any parent will tell you, if they are being truthful, that it can be a jading, not to say shattering experience, that occasionally brings on a longing for the lost days when they could get away as a couple (or even as singles). But there is certainly a deal of compensation in seeing different parts of the world through the eyes of a 3-year-old. We recently dragged Daniel to Thailand. Inevitably, he missed Beijing and his ayi for the first few days, and spent the last couple looking forward to getting back home. But in the middle he thankfully saw fit to enjoy himself – thus justifying Mummy and Daddy’s investment in the airplane tickets.
The hightlight was definitely Ko Phi Phi Don, often shortened in touristlit to Phi Phi, which might be rendered pipi in pinyin. This happens to be a homonym for "botty" in Chinese kiddy-speak, so for obvious reasons Daniel had really been looking forward to going there. What self-respecting 3-year-old boy wouldn’t relish spending a few days on Botty Island? For father and son, boat trips in the vicinity were leavened by the inappropriate anatomical naming of adjacent islands.
"Ko" means island, and "don" means big, thus making the only inhabited island (I Wikied it) "Big Phi Phi". And boy, is it inhabited – mostly by sunburned British students with cocktails in hand. Apart from them, though, it was nice. The island is spectacularly shaped: Mountains on either side, connected by a narrow strip of land bounded by white-sand beaches. Between this is the town – rebuilt following devastation in the 2004 Tsunami.
Although Phi Phi ticked most of the boxes that make it a good place to take the kids on holidays, we were slightly surprised to find ourselves in a small minority of families with younger children. One reason might have been because it was monsoon season, which made the ferry ride back a queasy and alarming experience. (Daniel slept soundly while we suffered.) There was one major drawback to going with a little one: The main event in Phi Phi is a trip to a cove on the neighboring island, which happens to be the one where a certain Leonardo Dicaprio flick was filmed. I never got to see The Beach in question, however, the wind being too strong, the long boat could only drop us in a bay nearby, leaving just a short swim through a choppy sea, a climb up a metal ladder on a craggy rock face, and a walk to the sacred site. My wife braved it, while I minded the kiddy on the bobbing long-tail boat. When Su made it back, she was white with fear. I was green. But Dan, of course, was taking it all in his stride, just soaking up the view of Big Botty Island.