There were many things I imagined doing for my kids before actually having any. Wiping their little noses. Wiping their little bottoms. I imagined cuddling them better when they were sick, and cheering them on as third tree from the left in the school play. I did not, however, at any point imagine myself sitting in a pastel explosion of a cafe in Bangkok, eating rainbow candy floss and dressed as a unicorn. But that, people, is exactly what happened.
We'd tried explaining the Thai capital to Olivia before we arrived, attempting to prepare her for the sensory overload that was about to overwhelm her. But she told us she just wanted 'surprises'. So with a little research and the indispensable parenting tool known as Google, we arranged a different little experience for her on every day of our stay.
Bangkok is well-known as a playground for adults, a sleepless den of debauchery, drinks slurped from buckets and ping pong balls coming out of questionable places. It is not the first place that springs to mind as family-friendly. Yet if you look hard enough, the Thai capital is full of fun, cartoonish, colourful, memorable places to keep small people sublimely entertained.
It's easy with kids to drag them along to what we want to do, things that could be interesting for them. We're certainly guilty of this. But sometimes, you just need to suspend good taste and common sense and go with whatever they're into at the time. I read an interesting article recently about the brutal moment you take away your child's cartoon/app/screen. For reasonable adults, dinner's on the table and it's time to switch off. For them, lost in the hypnotic world of Luna Petunia or PJ Masks, it's a visceral, sensory slap in the face. It was suggested that a way of easing the transition and making it less painful was to sit down with your child for five minutes and watch the programme with them, to show a real interest and ask them about the characters and the story. After that, you make the decision to turn it off together. And then, in theory at least, nobody cries and you get to eat your dinner.
This concept of embracing a child's passions has become something that we're consciously trying to apply wherever we can. And though we might not be the biggest fans of pastel rainbows and unicorns, she really, really is. So when we found out there was a Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok, it went straight to the top of the list. And the look of sheer delight on our daughter's face as she climbed out of the taxi and realised where we were made it completely worthwhile.
The Unicorn Cafe is batshit crazy. Whoever thought this place up didn't hold back. Every surface is either pink, lilac or glittery, right down to the skirting boards and the electric sockets. The entire ceiling is covered in hanging unicorns and My Little Ponies in the finest flammable polyester. There are candy-hued sofas filled with piles of cuddly unicorns to pose with and, um, cuddle. There are unicorn onesies, horn and all, to rent at the counter so five minutes after walking through the door, Olivia is in a pink and white miniature outfit and I am head to toe in purple fur. We fit right in.
There is food, of sorts. The menu, clearly created by an evil genius, is an eye-boggling monstrosity with a rainbow theme coursing through its sugar-rushed veins. And while we're all for embracing the experience, the concept of a rainbow carbonara is a step too far for an Italian with standards, so we settle on the nutritionally sound breakfast of rainbow crepe cake and rainbow candy floss.
River, having been wheeled into the madhouse whilst comatose in his buggy, wakes up with a brilliant look of "where the fuck am I?". Olivia gleefully drags him into the chaos, while we try to stop him sucking the ageing cuddlies. He settles, as usual, with a breastfeed, though in this case he's milking me, the lilac unicorn.
We were there for a couple of hours, hugging and chatting and laughing and playing. Nothing educational, nothing culturally important, certainly nothing of nutritional value. Just good clean childish fun. And you know what? It was kind of brilliant. We left the Instagram addicts hashtagging their way through the menu, and the tantrums starting with one particularly over-sugared child. But as we wandered down the road, our own kid couldn't have been happier. Because for one morning, we had completely given ourselves over to her tastes. We'd stepped into her world and let her lead the way. We had loved what she loves
Soi Sathorn 8, Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)86 397 9262