Suburban Man: Flight Risk

Illustration: Angela Keoghan.



Travelling overseas with a baby is one of life’s great challenges.

The three of us got on the plane to Singapore in the middle of the night and sat up the front in those seats that have the bassinets on the bulkhead, in between a nice South American couple with a baby and a nice German couple with a baby. We boarded first, and had great seats with lots of legroom. A man allocated a seat in the row next to us paled when he saw all these babies. He buzzed for a steward. “To save us all some pain,” he said in a sonorous voice, “I think I’d better move.” And despite completely understanding, I thought, Fuck you.

We had a glass of red wine and the beef please, and then Ira looked pretty tired — it was about 2am by this point — so we put him to sleep and we were so tired we actually slept, until he woke up a few hours later. We put him on the ground, and he crawled over to the South American couple and the two babies played in the aisle until breakfast came.

In hindsight, it was an ambitious itinerary. Two nights in Singapore, a week in Chiang Mai for work and then a week in a little villa on the beach in Koh Samui. It was 34ºC and humid at seven in the morning in Singapore, and we couldn’t check in to our hotel until the afternoon, so we set off to explore a cute little 1930s area with hipster bookshops. Ira grizzled on the subway, which seemed to alarm the locals — Singaporean babies appear not to make any noise and don’t seem to go on the subway very much, and certainly not in the heat of the day — before falling asleep in his pram.

The afternoon got hotter and he woke up and wailed and thrashed about and the Singaporeans looked at us with contempt until we parked up on the grass under a tree and bought emergency snacks. He slept fitfully that night, as expected, and then he got a cold, and the first few nights weren’t much fun. Though the worst bit was the flight to Chiang Mai, when he didn’t sleep at all and cried loudly and arched his back and flailed around, and we wondered what on earth we were doing.

But Thailand was great for babies. Ira made eyes at waitresses and waved his little hand in an open-and-closed kind of way, and they picked him up and wandered around the restaurant while we drank Chang beer and ate noodles and grilled fish and som tum.

In Chiang Mai we rented a car, which I can assure you is an excellent thing to have when you are travelling with a baby. Then we checked in and went for a swim, and I did my usual flap about dinner. I had a list of places from Andy Ricker’s Instagram feed to check out, and another list from a chef I know at Saan.

All of these places looked amazingly good and in normal circumstances I might even have been unable to choose and tried to eat at two in one night. I settled on one; it was five minutes up the river, but when we got there it was closed, and Ira started to grizzle so we drove to the night market near our hotel, which was just setting up as our boy started to really yell.

We grabbed some grilled chicken, fresh off the charcoal grill, and sticky rice and laap and a salad made of sliced bamboo with great torn-up pieces of kaffir lime leaf and chilli and lime juice, and we raced back to the hotel and sat on our balcony as the sun went down, feeding Ira balls of sticky rice and bits of chicken and bananas that we also bought at the market. I have to say, it was one of the finest dinners I’ve ever had, anywhere.