Sunshine Coast Surprise Visit

As my sister’s due date came and went, my urge to go home intensified.

She’d been pregnant for 17 years or so and I’d seen photos of her bump, chatted to her online and Skyped her. But it’s just not the same as being there. Long pauses on Skype are a signal the call has gone on too long. In real life, it’s just part of normal conversation, or time for a wine top-up.

Things had gotten quite stressful in Ho Chi Minh City, with Darling Man insisting on getting rid of the only live-in helper I’ve actually liked and his mother moving in until a new one was found.

On day four of MIL’s stay, I totally lost it. The pendulum had swung far over to the Vietnamese side of things, much, much too far, and I felt like I’d lost control of my house, my kitchen, my kids, my life and, very nearly, my sanity.

Fuck it, I muttered to myself that morning. I’m going home. I’m going to use my emergency funds to go home and cuddle that new baby, hug my new-mum baby sister and our mum and take my kids to the beach, to the library and to the beachfront cafes at Mooloolaba. I’m going to be Australian for a while, rather than the lumbering and ignorant bad Vietnamese daughter-in-law.

Mooloolaba Beach

My favourite beach, Mooloolaba, on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast

By the end of the day I’d booked flights for the three of us (Darling Man had to stay in Vietnam to meet our street food tour commitments), a week at a two-bedroom apartment one block from my favourite beach and a babysitter to look after the kids for the first afternoon so I could recover from the overnight flight.

The plan was to arrive unannounced, recover in our little holiday apartment, then take the bus to my sister’s house, knock on the door and yell DELIVERY FROM VIETNAM with enormous grins on our faces.

But because my plans always go awry, this plan went awry. Of course.

A few days before lift-off, Miss M and I caught colds. Nasty colds. Sunny also succumbed. We all had a lot of snot and sneezes, as well as high fevers and that general yuk feeling that bad colds bring. It was pretty bad. And it just wouldn’t end.

We still had the colds two days before our flights. And the day before. And the day of. We boarded the plane for our overnight flight still snotty and horrible. The first two hours to Singapore weren’t too bad, and a kindly grandfatherly Australian gent carried a sleeping Miss M off the plane. The two hours at Singapore Airport were actually quite pleasant, with Miss M sleeping in the pram and Sunny staggering around amusing himself.

Then it was time to board our just-past-midnight seven-hour flight to Brisbane. I woke Miss M up to walk onto the plane and find her seat. She promptly threw up, creating a flurry of concern from the flight crew whose first thought was “Ebola patient”. Ugh.

Convincing them that my daughter was OK, just overheated, took some time. But eventually they bustled off to settle the rest of the plane.

Nothing much went wrong for the rest of that day. We arrived at the apartment, walked the block to the supermarket to stock up, met our babysitter and I had a blissful three-hour afternoon nap.

The next day we were still snotty, so we couldn’t do our surprise Vietnam delivery to my sister’s house. Instead we took the bus to my Mum’s house (and I have to say the Sunshine Coast buses are really lovely) and surprised her. She loaned us her car for a few hours, then texted to say we should keep the car overnight.

The next morning we woke up with minimal snot. It seemed today could be the day!

I manhandled the kids, sand toys and the nappy bag down to the teeny tiny dark garage … and couldn’t get the key in the lock. WTF?

Using the light of my phone I discovered it had been completely mangled. And my Mum had lost her clicker some time back. WTF? I couldn’t get into the car.

I carried everything back up to reception, which was, of course, unattended for an hour.

And so we set off for the police station. Which, of course, had moved since last time I’d been on the Sunshine Coast.

It was a long walk.

The rest of the day was spent waiting for a forensics team to turn up to dust Mum’s car for prints.

There was no baby-visit that day. At some point, I gave up on my planned surprise delivery and texted my sister to tell her we were nearby, but in quarantine.

The next day we were definitely snot-free and more than ready to meet my new niece. I called the RACQ, the local roadside assistance service that my Mum belongs to. But instead of providing roadside assistance, the operator told me I had to make an insurance claim in order to organise a locksmith. Ugh.

Did I mention the apartment block’s phones were out, and so all phone calls had to be made from the manager’s office or from the public phone a 10 minute walk away? I could text on my Vietnamese phone, but calls were expensive and I had to save my credit for incoming calls from street food tour customers.

The apartment managers said they’d call their locksmith to get into the car. The managers, who knew I’d been stuck in the apartment for a day already, even said they could pay the locksmith if I wanted to go out.

My sister said she’d bring the baby and our mum round to our place. So we finally got to meet the baby!

The baby! The baby!

The baby! The baby!

We took the baby and ourselves out to a cafe. When we got back, we discovered the locksmith had been, but because he didn’t have the car keys, had left again.

I settled in for another long wait in the apartment.

FINALLY, just as the sun was going down, we were mobile again, no longer tethered to a inaccessible car.

The next week was spent beaching, catching up with family and friends, cooking, and shopping for things not available in Vietnam, such as anchovette, size 11 shoes, Wellington boots, eucalyptus oil and nit shampoo. There was also quite a bit of parking the kids in front of ABC2, the government-funded kid’s TV channel. And lots of baby-watching and baby-cuddles.



More beaching!

More beaching!


And new baby-ing!

And new baby-ing!

Isn’t my new niece just gorgeous?

We’re back in Ho Chi Minh City now and for the first time in many years I am feeling homesick.

Sunshine Coast for families – the logistics

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, an hour north of Brisbane, is a great destination for family holidays. There are scads of holiday apartments (with bedroom doors that shut, unlike hotel rooms) across the Sunshine Coast, which stretches from Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north, and into the beautiful cool and misty hinterland.

We stayed at Bellardoo Holiday Apartments, which is one block from Mooloolaba Beach, one block from a supermarket and right on the bus route, so trips to Kawana Shoppingworld and the nearby Kawana Library, Caloundra, Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydoore and Maroochydore Library are easy. (Although after so long in Asia, the A$4.80 bus fare seemed extortionate.)

The Sunshine Coast libraries are great, with kid’s play areas and regular children’s activities. We stumbled into a storytime session at Kawana Library, which included singing and dancing as well as stories.

Bo Peep’s Babysitting is also highly recommended. Dawn, the owner, is one of those wonderful people who adores children. She arrived at our apartment with toys, games and activities and I felt very confident leaving her in charge of the kids while I slept. I told Dawn I didn’t mind if she took the kids down to the playground, but it rained the whole three hours so she entertained them in the apartment.

There are many other activities and attractions on the Sunshine Coast for families but this trip was supposed to be a relax and recharge holiday, so we just stuck to beaching and hanging out in our apartment.

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8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Sounds like it was well worth the challenges.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Adventures in Dog Sitting in Puerto Rico

  2. Liv says:

    If it was last week that you were here you were extremely unlucky with the weather. I’m happy to report the Mooloolaba is back to its usual sunny self now. You were very unlucky with the car and the colds. Somehow though, being an expat myself, I’m sure seeing family made up for all of that.
    Liv recently posted..Best diving spots in Croatia and Montenegro

    • Barbara says:

      The weather wasn’t that bad last week, Liv! On our last day it was cold and wet all day but every other day the weather was beautiful. I like cooler weather, especially after so many years of endless summer in Asia.

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