Picking up where we left off last time, here are five more reasons we l-o-v-e-d our time in the land down under the land down under.
1. Amazing All Blacks. For those of you that don’t know, (I didn’t!) the All Blacks is New Zealand’s professional rugby team. The day we landed in New Zealand, they had just made it to the finals of the Rugby World Cup and were going to play France on the day we left. All week long we had locals explaining the game of rugby to us, the traditions of the All Blacks and why the rival Australian team was so bad. Every time you turned on a television or radio they were replaying the last game or predicting what would happen in the next game. These people made die-hard SEC football fans look like amateurs. Every store, restaurant, church and library you passed had All Black signs in them supporting the hometown team. It wasn’t too much though, in fact, we loved the passion and enthusiasm and found ourselves getting caught up in it. The whole country was so impressively excited about their possible world championship, they were taking along everyone on the island! The last night we were there, we sat in a pub with locals and watched the team perform the haka, a Maori dance that was traditionally performed before they went into battle. Man, it was enough to get you pumped up for anything! It gave me cold chills and made me want to jump on the field and play. The All Blacks ended up winning the World Rugby Cup 8-7, and it was amazing to think that we were lucky enough to be there for it.
2. Glaciers. I don’t know if you heard, but New Zealand has a few glaciers. We bit the bullet (spendy!) and reserved a spot for the heli hike at Franz Josef Glacier our third day there. I was beyond excited that we were
a) going in a helicopter
b) going to hike on a glacier.
But sadly, when we got there that day, the ride was canceled, due to fog. I was devastated. Then they said we could wait around for a little while to see if the fog cleared for the next flight. Of course, we did, and we even got as far as putting on our hiking boots before they canceled the next flight too. So. Very. Sad. There might or might not have been some crying in the middle of the street about this. (Dan has got to get a hold of himself about these things.) We did get as close as we could to the glacier on foot, which was pretty cool. Just not as cool as adding a helicopter.
3. Fergburger It was the best burger we’ve ever had, hands down. We went there twice and ordered the Southern Swine burger both times. The New Zealand beef was amazing and Fergburger is a bit of an institution in Queenstown.
4. Outdoorsy. We loved how many things we could do outside in New Zealand! It was perfect weather and when outside looks like a movie, why in the world would you ever stay inside? While we were in New Zealand we went running, bike riding, rock climbing, hiking (called “tramping” in NZ) and even got an invitation from the local rowing club to come out and join them for a row. It was like the best summer camp in the world.
5. Things we weren’t used to seeing in Malaysia, but missed from home. You know, things like churches, pine cones, fluffy beds, drive through liquor stores and cold(ish) weather. It’s the little things.
So that was our trip to New Zealand in the form of a top ten list. I have about five million more photographs that I will be happy to go over in excruciating detail just as soon as I get home. Let me know where to meet you and we can settle in for some more New Zealand goodness. Do you make top ten lists for vacations? Or is that just me? If you don’t, you should. It’s a good time. Leave us a comment about your favorite vacation location – we might want to check it out next!
*Sweet As is another slang phrase used in NZ. Kiwi’s use it instead of “awesome.” Go ahead, try and use it today. You will feel oh-so-Kiwi when you do.
This blog entry is part of our “Retro Series” in that we go back and blog about trips we have already taken but were to
lazy busy to blog about. This is the third and final blog about our trip to Hanoi, Vietnam.
After touring the city of Hanoi for a couple days, with congested sinuses and pounding headaches, we set off for the quiet solitude of Ha Long Bay a few hours north. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to limestone karsts that poke out of the South China Sea and is one of the most sought after destinations in Vietnam. It’s often touted as a “must see” of SE Asia and since we had plenty of time in Hanoi, we booked a two day/one night tour on a Chinese Junk (small wooden cruise ship). Early the next morning we were shuttled off to the remote northeast corner of Vietnam.
The quiet, fresh air was certainly a nice change, although the shuttle bus that carried us to our port was clearly not built for westerners. Along with our fellow travelers from Malaysia, Scotland, Canada and UK, we were feeling a little cramped and thus quite relieved upon arriving where we were able to stretch out again. When we got there we were taken out to our home for the next 24ish hours. Here she is:
Our weather was overcast and gray so the first day our view was a little like this….
And a little of this….
Perhaps it was simply the weather, but needless to say, we felt a disconnect between our expectations and the reality of the experience. Tough critics, I know.
The next day, we visited a floating fishing village nearby where it was amazing to see how its inhabitants lived and worked without much interaction with the outside world. (I mean, besides the tourists they lugged around.)
The coolest thing was that each house was guarded by a dog. Of all shapes and sizes.
Spending the night on a ship was interesting but ultimately we felt it was doable in a long day trip. For the time and money spent, we just didn’t see the value in stretching it out to an overnight event. Plus the food on board the Junk left a few things to be desired. In fact, as we would later find out, it was here I (Dan) picked up salmonella. Yuck.
We met some really interesting travelers on our boat from all over the world, and snapped some great photos over the two days but for the most part the best thing about Ha Long Bay was the respite it provided from the congestion of Hanoi. It was with mixed feelings that we embarked on the 3.5hr, rickety bus ride back to the city for more sight-seeing. The traffic there gave us a new perspective and appreciation for how developed the roads and infrastructure actually are in Malaysia.
I am making good to my pledge to go back and blog about some of our adventures that I didn’t quite have time to do in real time. Some of you may have seen pictures on facebook, but I’m going back and adding in the good parts (aka-my thoughts) on the entire trip. I’m going to start working my way backwards, starting with the last big trip we took in December over the holidays. We wanted to do a bit of a “Farewell Asia” tour and hit some of the spots that we hadn’t had a chance to do yet. Using two weeks of my Christmas break we headed out to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Krabi, Thailand, and Hanoi, Vietnam.
The first place we went was Cambodia and out of the three places, it was my favorite without a doubt. It was the poorest country I have ever been to and is recovering from an amazingly horrible history, but the people we met had a quiet determination and seemed so genuinely nice and kind in a way that I’m not sure if I would be if I was in their place.
The Siem Reap airport was surprisingly modern and nice and our driver picked us up right out front, which is always a relief when you are very clearly a tourist in country that is unknown to you. He took us to our hotel, the Golden Temple Hotel. As cheesy as the name is, it was one of the best hotel we have ever stayed at. Not the fanciest, not the most expensive, but the nicest people, a great location, lovely room, spa treatments, THE WORKS! If you are ever in the neighborhood you should forgo the Holiday Inn and stay at the Golden Temple Hotel instead. For breakfast our driver took us to a local hang out for a traditional Cambodia breakfast of meat, rice and some cucumbers on the side.
After breakfast we headed to the temples. Over the next two days, we saw lots and lots of temples, each with their own unique story and symbolism. The coolest thing about them temples is the fact that they are from the 12th century! Having lasted as long as they have, through all the conflicts that Cambodia has had, to still be standing is pretty remarkable. Here are a few of my favorites:
At the end of the day, as we were having dinner at a french restaurant overlooking downtown Siem Reap and we saw the mother of all motorbikes. We have seen a lot of things and people on motorbikes since we have been in Asia, but this was a new record-six people on one motorbike!!! Count carefully! It was the perfect way to end the day.
So, have you ever seen six people on a motorbike? Or, dare I say it-MORE? What is the most bizarre thing you have ever seen being carried on a motorbike, domestically or international?