The Always Evolving and Partially Unwritten Five-Year Plan

Posts tagged “travel

Sweet As New Zealand*

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. 

Rugby World Cup Finals!

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.

Check out the haka performed before the Rugby World Cup here.

These cute kids stood on the corner before the big game, with all their All Blacks stuff on and got people to cheer and honk to show their support!

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.

See the glacier? I was standing where it used to be. Darn you global warming!

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.

I even found rowing in Wanaka!

Can you see Dan?

Rock climbing in New Zealand

On a break from our bike ride. In the background are “The Remarkables”, the beautiful mountains made famous by being part of the scenery for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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.

Right after we got there and got out of the car for the first time! Cold! Yippee! Watch out for the Kiwis!

Church of the Good Shephard in the countryside.

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.

I couldn’t resist one last Kiwi pic! Cute little guy, huh?


My Review of Commute 2.0 Messenger

With all the travel we’ve done over the past couple years, we’ve managed to pick up several handy packing and travel tips (like using space saver bags!). Each trip is sort of a challenge for me to try to find some new element to help us simplify and travel lighter, easier, cheaper, etc. This bag below has been my best friend whether for daily commutes, or as my carry-on luggage for weekend trips. If our trip is 3-4 nights or under, I won’t check a bag and instead will only take this guy with me as my carry-on. People we travel with are often amazed at how little I bring, “where’s your other bag? That’s it?!?” Even for a 3-night triathlon weekend to Phuket, I packed only this bag and a bike box.

This timbuk2 bag, coupled with an Eagle Creek Cube, has been my go-to whether trekking to a new city/country for a few days, packing for a long day of working out with a variety of gear, or just commuting to the office. I’ve cycled to the boathouse, where I rowed and coached crew, followed by a swim at the pool and a bike ride home…with all the appropriate changes of clothes, food, and water at my fingertips. I’ve used this combo for a 1-2 night business trip over a weekend with room for my suit and laptop. Finally, it is also the perfect size for that 3-4 night casual trip as well on an adventure to a new land with my honey. When at home, it is my office on the go as I can easily carry my laptop and files, papers, general stuff…no problem. I can’t say enough about the timbuk2 bag, and when needed…the EC cube as a companion item.

Since I benefited greatly from reviews about both items before purchasing, I had to pay it forward and write one myself. I typically don’t do this as much as I should, but these two deserved it. Here’s the one for the messenger bag…

Originally submitted at Timbuk2

An updated Commute that’s TSA-compliant.

I Use it Everyday

By World Traveler from All over SE Asia and USA on 5/2/2012
5out of 5

Pros: High Quality, Good Strap Length, Easy Access, Great Color, Good Organization, Attractive

Best Uses: Computer, Commuting, Traveling, Office

Describe Yourself: Modern, Career, Practical

Was this a gift?: No

I almost settled for a cheaper messenger/laptop bag because of the price of timbuk2. I’m so glad I took that cheaper bag back because I use my timbuk2 everyday and love it. It’s great for basically giving me my office on the go with plenty of storage for laptop, files, etc. I do wish there was a separate compartment for computer cords, but it’s a minor minor thing. I also have used this bag for overnight or even up to 3-4night trips by using a space saver bag and/or another zip-up organizer that slips inside my commuter 2.0. I don’t normally take the time to come back and give reviews, but I’ve been meaning to do this one for a long time because I’ve had this bag 15mths, literally use daily and it looks new. Can’t wait to have the need for another one. I will say, however, the whole TSA selling point thing is disappointingly inaccurate. Or at least TSA peeps didn’t get the memo. 90% of the time I still have to take the laptop out. Bummer, but overall not a biggie. I just wouldn’t put it in the features anymore…or launch some sort of a TSA training effort to spread the word. All in all, highly recommend this bag. It’s awesome. Period. Keep it up guys, and thank you!


A Long Strange Cruise Through Ha Long Bay

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:

The Opera

Our weather was overcast and gray so the first day our view was a little like this….

Moody and misty

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.)

A house on the floating village

The coolest thing was that each house was guarded by a dog. Of all shapes and sizes.

I love the dog guarding the house with the dad playing with his little boy in the background.

I don't think I would mess with this girl.

Need anything? It's like the local 7-11.

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.

The beautiful view from the second day. This is the Ha Long Bay we wanted to see!