Meltdown in THE Most Important Temple in Bangkok

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The tantrum in a public space (yes YOUR child will do it one day!)

Nothing can prepare you for it. When it happens it catapults you into a limbo land of frustrated confusion.

What the hell do I do here?

There’s no point having a plan as nothing ever works.

The biggest causes of what I like to term a meltdown are tiredness and hunger, plus what we discovered in Bangkok, heat and crowds.

Sometimes it’s enough to make any adult meltdown.

Going to see the Emerald Buddha

Golden Palace meltdown (2 of 3)

Kalyra was excited to see the Emerald Buddha. She knows him as the man of peace who helps us remember to be kind.

She was also catching her breath to be visiting a REAL palace.

I was excited to. I want her to be exposed to different Gods and spiritual beliefs – not so she can necessarily subscribe to any one way, but so she can be open to learning and finding her own path.

It was a typically hot Bangkok day and since we had arrived the evening before we were not prepared for its stickiness.

We also hadn’t had a lot of sleep. Kalyra’s eyes sprang open at 4:30am. She can’t be awake on her own; it took her five minutes to deviate a plan that involved accidentally waking her sister.

Can you see disaster brewing in the cauldron?

We were all fairly chipper when we arrived to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – the MOST important temple in Thailand.

No one knows where the Emerald Buddha originally came from; he was discovered in the rubble of a crumbling Wat by the same name in Chiang Mai.

He was a little plastic statue no one paid attention to, until one day someone accidentally clipped its noise, revealing the precious jade underneath.

Yes. The Emerald Buddha is made of jade.

The Meltdown

toddler tantrums on holiday
Look at that tired face

The mystery begins right there with him. The meltdown begins right at the in-pouring of tourists through the Palace gates.

Savannah began her tired whines. Kalyra’s grin soon turned to grimaces and her eyes glazed over with exhaustion and overwhelm.

“Oh I’m so hot in this,” Kalyra began wailing and pulling at the long dress I had thrown over her shorts and shirt.

Her 5 year old mind was not going to comprehend she had to suck up the uncomfortableness to wear clothes that showed respect to the Buddha and King.

I was struggling to overcome the same resistance. The heat and the extra clothes were suffocating. Our guide Tim told me that it was okay for her take off the dress and wear the shorts and shirts.

“We don’t worry about children. It’s more a rule to stop people trying to dress sexy. Little children don’t do this.”

We whipped the dress off and worked through the plan of averting meltdown madness.

Grand Palace Bangkok
The crowd poors in

The temple complex is stunning in design and intricacies, but it was almost impossible for me to absorb their beauty and meaning. The crowds got in the way, the heat and tiredness oppressed me and the children turned on my anxiety.

“When are we going to see the Buddha?”

“Get me outta here. I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m so thirsty.”

My calm requests for patience fell on deaf ears. The wails continued rising with each step forward.

“I don’t care about the statue I just want to see the Buddha! Oh when are we going to see the Buuuudddhhhaa?”

Mummy had the brilliant idea of letting her learn about the process of praying to the Buddha and perhaps having a go herself.

We watched as those praying to Buddha lit and placed a candle in the box, burned the incense and laid a lotus flower down before placing a gold leaf on the Buddha to ask for their deepest desire and give thanks.

Grand palace Bangkok
Grand palace Bangkok

She watched intently and decided she wanted to do the same.

The cauldron was bubbling and I nervously agreed, knowing this could potentially lead to disaster or  be an enlightening experience.

The pot boiled over.

Lighting the candle and incense herself was going to be a little too dangerous so I said I could do that part while she watched.

She was not having this and threw herself on the floor with her best tantrum wails and tears right in front of the worshipping Thais.

“I wanna do that. I wanna light the candle. I wanna place the flower down. Why won’t you let me? Wahhhhhhh”

I wanted the floor to swallow me.

“Craig, get her out of here now”

He whipped her to the sedation room while I finished the ritual, asking Buddha for the strength I needed not to lose it myself (and silently praying the Thais weren’t praying to Buddha that the ground swallow up my family.)

Calm was restored for a short period while Daddy got her another lotus flower to place on the sacred space.

(NB – when in the most important temple in Thailand you are allowed to break the rules of things-you-said-you’d-never-do-as-a-parent and give in to your child’s wailing demands.)

While Kalyra prayed to the Buddha with reddened eyes and sniffling nose, I chased Savannah around the complex, trying to stop her tired legs from crash tackling the pavement and placate her frustrated wails. Her wiggles and screams to break free from my arms to stampede through the crowds possibly gained me the title of Mother-of-the-Year again. Twice in five minutes is not bad.

Kalyra however had refused to give the lotus flower to the Buddha, preferring that she keep it herself. By now she was composed so I agreed (again breaking parenting rules for whatever keeps you quiet right now in the most important temple in Thailand.)

It was time to walk inside the most sacred temple to see the Emerald Buddha. He sat high atop a throne.

She stared up for several minutes.

“Why is the Buddha so small? And green?”

He looked like a green frog with a regal shawl wrapped around it. You almost needed binoculars to see him properly.

I started to breathe again as her calm and inquisitive demeanor returned.

It remained for a further five minutes until we arrived in the important coronation room.

The wails and frustrated cries started up again. I picked her up and carried her out with her legs flying ninja kicks.

Stuck in that limbo land of confusion I tried all those dealing with tantrum strategies that are in the parenting handbook that doesn’t really exist.

I held her tightly and told her she was just tired all would be okay.

All things intensified.

I told her if she didn’t start behaving I would take her back to the hotel.

The cries turned to screams.

I said “You won’t’ be able to come on holidays anymore if this is how you behave. You’ll have to stay at home.”

Her mouth opened wide and she gasped. “How could you say that?”

Exactly, how could I? I was a tired, frustrated, hot, anxious mother who was struggling to deal with the parenting issues no one tells you how to deal with.

I started second guessing every decision I’d made. Was I a fool to think we could travel to Thailand? This was only day 1. The girls were way too young to deal with such a different country.

I began losing it. I wanted to lie on the floor and kick out my frustrations and cry.

What was I to do?

I remembered the Emerald Buddha I stood in front of only minutes before. I quietly asked him to give me the strength to get through this day and be a better parent.

I let her go and told her she could go back in and find her daddy.

Tim suggested we leave and have some lunch for a well-earned break for the girls.

“They are tired and it is too busy here for them.”

I nearly hugged her.

We left, sat by the river, and calm returned.

Golden palace meltdowns
Cool and happy now

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Have you experienced children meltdowns on holidays before? Please share and make me feel better.

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43 thoughts on “Meltdown in THE Most Important Temple in Bangkok”

  1. 99 times out of 100 it is being tired. It’s a horrible thing to experience. Drives me insane. Very difficult for me to keep my composure. It’s a complete nightmare. It’s why I try to work around schedules to make sure this doesn’t happen. Not always preventable but sometimes I have to blame myself as much as them when it happens.

    1. It is a complete nightmare! So glad I am not alone in thinking it.
      I can see the meltdown coming and I rush quickly into trying to put the fires out as fast as I can.
      I just couldn’t with this one.

  2. I actually felt that way myself when I was at the Vatican. I don’t know if it was because it was a 35+ degree day, the crowds, or my personal issues with catholicism, but I needed OUT. I guess what I was feeling was claustrophobic, but I’ve never had it before or since, so I don’t know for sure.

  3. LOL pretty much did the same thing myself – without the screaming – took one look at the queue for the cover up clothing – checked the price 650B – said le’ts go back to the pool instead! Frankly the crowds have got way out of control – it’s crazy the number of tour buses lined up the the front. After a month in Burma – I just wasn’t into paying so much for so little (I had been before and I’m been with Kalyra – small and unimpressive)

    1. It’s really insane. I don’t remember it being so bad before, but we were there during peak season this time I think they should cap the numbers each day as it is hard to enjoy how beautiful it is

  4. Oh yes the meltdown. One of my favourite articles was “Terrible Twos Strike 41 Metres High on Canopy Walk” when my son decided to have a complete tantrum during a very high tree walk. It happens to all of us and while at the time nothing anybody says makes you feel better – just know we have been there and done that 🙂

  5. I think every parent has been there and it’s always horrible while it’s happening. Overtired and hot has always brought out the worst in my girls – and we have had some doozies of temper tantrums over the years – often in completely inappropriate places. Once calm has been restored then I just wipe the meltdown from my memory. 🙂

    1. It just becomes a story to tell in the end! It was much nicer when we got to the beach, the breeze cooled things down and we could relax more

  6. You are not alone! We’ve certainly experienced the same horror/frustration in our travels with our 3 yr old. I always try to keep a few lollipops or a small new toy in my bag for a distraction in an emergency and I have to keep reminding myself that travel isn’t the same as it used to be. We take more time, we see fewer things in a day, and make sure we have a lot of play and rest time. We may not see as many sights as we might have pre-baby, but we are enjoying just savouring travel with our son. When my son talks about how much fun it was to swim in ‘blue milk’ (i.e. Blue Lagoon, Iceland) and ride a camel in the Dubai desert, I know all the frustrations and occasional melt-downs have been worth it.

    1. I think the slow travel is so essential with kids. We’ll certainly be making it that way from now on. It became much more enjoyable when we hit the beaches and could play and relax more

    1. Thank you Andi!! They are truly adorable. Only monsters every now and then 🙂

      I think it is a human trait to be like that when tired and hot!! It’s not until I became a mum that I really noticed the effect sleep (lack of it) has on humans

  7. I feel your pain. We had the exact same experience at Wat Po in Bangkok. Up way too early, too hot, not enough patience to enjoy the experience, not enough willpower to be quiet… a deadly combination for the travelling family! You should see the photo I’ve got of Reuben melting down in Wat Po!

    1. I would love to see that!! Wat Po can be equally as bad with the crowds.
      Such a shame it was the first day too as it set me in a more stressful tone than normal

      1. Here’s the picture. I’m sure you can relate!!!

        I actually got some great words of encouragement from other travelling parents when I expressed this at the time. It really helped to know I wasn’t the only one who’s children do this.

        I came to the conclusion the Reuben was suffering from culture shock. Everything is so different in Bangkok – the smells, the noise, the frenzy and the heat. It’s all just too much for tired little kids!

        I’ve definitely learnt to allow for a 1-2 week adjustment period when changing cultures so dramatically. That’s hard to do when the trip itself is only a few weeks long.

        I hope the rest of the trip improved!

        1. IT sure did! I think the culture shock would be huge for a child- much scarier because they don’t really understand what is happening. Kalyra’s eyes were wide open the entire time. She really loved not having to wear a seat belt though!!!

  8. Poor everyone. Even harder for us adults as we are expected to solve the problem and make it better. Every parent in the world sympathizes! With the crowds in your photos I can understand it being overwhelming, and I agree that the heat makes everything so much worse.

    1. The heat was really oppressive. I don’t know how people can wear long, black clothes all the time there! I only wish I knew how to solve the problem. Wouldn’t that make parenting so easy?

  9. I was right there with you! Almost too painful to read. My son had a tantrum that lasted the entire 12 hour flight between Auckland and LAX last year. We knew he wasn’t going to sleep on account of the Wiggles being available on the screen so when we told him “TV time is over” and he started in, of course we gave in (and we are staunch not giver inners!). After 10 viewings, he got frustrated that he couldn’t watch the DVDs he knew from home and became entirely inconsolable. So, nobody slept on that particular plane ride. Best of luck for the rest of your journey:)

    1. Oh dear that sounds horrendous. We were so worried about Savannah coming home on the flight as the two night’s previous, she screamed all night long. I think it was her teeth. Thankfully she slept for most of the flight, while all the other babies on the place screamed!! I was so grateful it wasn’t her as I would have been stressed out to the max

  10. We traveled to Asia and Australia last year with our then 31/2 year old son. He had one meltdown on the 15 hour flight to Hong Kong (didn’t sleep a wink the whole flight and then screamed unconsolably when we had to strap him back in his seat for the landing). He also had a couple of mini-meltdowns in restaurants when he was hungry and he hadn’t napped. Sleep is definitely the key!

    1. Oh no, meltdowns on the plane are the worst! There’s absolutely nothing you can do. We were terrified of that happening on the plane home. Sleep is key for everyone

  11. As all the other commenters have said, every parent has been there. If they claim their children were perfectly behaved at all times, they have had a convenient memory lapse. Why, even my own mother, who thinks I was a perfect child, can remember me have a tanty or 2. At the time, you just have to grin and bear it, and get everyone out. It is no fun for the child, for you or for anyone else. I know it is a bummer when you are on a holiday and possibly can’t get back to that spot, but trying to tough it out makes it harder for the rest of the trip as everyone’s tolerance levels go down. Heat (or cold), tiredness, hunger, thirst, intimidating crowds (especially when people look and dress so differently to what the child is used to) present stressful situations to anyone, child or adult. From my own experience,trying to talk to my children or even hold them while they were in the grip of a tantrum was useless and only made me feel more anxious. I would remove them from the situation, legs and arms flailing, go somewhere quiet where they could scream it out on their own, and when they were recovered, have a kiss and cuddle time. No recriminations, no discussing the issue. Have a drink and go home /hotel for a rest. You need it! Thankfully I didn’t experience an episode on a plane, but have been on planes when it has happened. That’s why ear plugs were invented.

    1. I love this advice Thea, thank you. I think I will do that next time. Sounds better than what a lot of the gurus say to do. I really don’t think there is one set way to do things as each child is so different, as are their parents trying to figure this whole thing out!!

      1. Exactly, Caz. Free advice is free to be ignored. Each child is different and what works for one probably won’t work with the next. I’m sure half the gurus haven’t had children, and like The Nanny, get to go home alone at the end of the day.

  12. You handled it well Caz, there is only so much you can do when you child is throwing a tanty!
    While we dont have kids ourselves we are very observant and found on our travels to Thailand, the Thais LOVE kids!! I’m sure they would have understood that the kids were hot and tired. Well done!!

    I guess you could have thrown yourself on the floor and had a tanty too, i hear that stops kids dead in their tracks but the adults around you would have given you some strange looks!

  13. I really like your blog. I read your Air Asia experience. OMG I just booked online now and I think I need to prepare myself for the worst. I am traveling from Manila to Seoul. I hope four hours won’t be that worst.

  14. To be fair to you I’m pretty sure it’s not just kids that throw their toys out of the pram the day after a long-haul flight and while adjusting to sweltering heat. At least that’s what I gathered from things I saw on some of my temple visits in S.E. Asia haha!

    Jokes aside I can only imagine how awkward you must have been feeling in that situation, but it sounds like you handled it as well as possible 🙂

  15. Wow!! I like your post so much and all the photographs that you shared here. I know you enjoyed a lot there and through your blog, I got many facts to know about this place. I like these kinds of religious places of any religion because every religion lead us to peace after all.

  16. Lennie Khalid

    Hi Caz,

    I found your blog via my husband, and read your post on Air Asia X . As a Malaysian, I’m sorry for what you have to go through 🙁 Hope you’ll have a better experience if you (ever) decide to layover in KL again, as the KLIA2 will open soon, in place of the LCCT.

    I flew on Air Asia on May 1st to Bali from Kuala Lumpur with Hamzah, my 7 month-old little one. He was fairly okay in the flight; but the rushed, long trips and bumpy roads in Bali made him cranky. He was kind enough to sort of behave while he’s there, but when we came home last night; he gave us the longest, loudest wail I’ve seen him did. I think he has reached his threshold, especially having to wait for a one-hour delayed flight, and had to wait in the plane for almost 30 mins cause as it touched down, it was pouring heavily outside, and the captain couldn’t open the doors.

    Am looking forward to more travels with him and husband; and shall return to your blog and pick up travel tips with toddlers 🙂

  17. Joi Dickerson-Neal

    Tantrums n difficult travel with children are horrible experiences. Trust me my son is 8 n has been on over 70 flights. Did I mention, that as a toddler, my friend nicknamed him Bin Laden? The thing is your depictions are HILARIOUS n Im sitting here laughing out loud! Im compelled to follow your blog n this is a first for me. Kudos sister Mom!

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