Time flies

I had been waiting for my family to visit and now they have been and gone !

It was Mum’s second trip to New Zealand after seven years.  She visited with my sister and hubby.  My brother joined them flying from the Solomon Island.

This post is a collage of sweet memories during their visit.

How time flies.

 

Mum’s first try on driving a ‘car’ (scooter) for easy access at Botanical Garden.

A kind neighbour offered us free grapefruits. Pick your own.

A visit to Otara market in the rain.

Mum & sis at Fo Guang Shan temple in Flatbush.

Fresh Clevedon Oysters – I seemed to be the only one enjoying it.

Wonder Women – Four Generations.

A family portrait.

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Fireworks and Food

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a random event …..

Aucklanders are in for a treat tonight with a fireworks celebration set to take place in honour of Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup win today.

It sounded cool, something to do on a cold Tuesday evening.  We took the train to Viaduct and reached the venue just as the fire flame started.  The supposedly fireworks display lasted for probably under 5 minutes (more or less).  We won’t fussy as it was a random treat after all, but most Aucklanders who rushed to the event were disappointed as reported today ……….

Public backlash after America’s Cup-Viaduct Harbour fireworks fizzer

If you click on the above link, that would take you to the video on the entire fireworks display.  The crowd was overwhelming and I only managed a transient shot of the after event below.

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The evening wasn’t wasted.  We took the opportunity while in downtown to dine at our favourite restaurant, Hanoi Cafe serving the nicest Vietnamese food you could ever find in Auckland.

How wonderful our (otherwise quiet) Tuesday evening turned out to be.

From New Zealand’s win in the America’s Cup to our celebration by fireworks.

Off we went by wheels of a train to join the crowd.   Reached the venue just in time when the flames lit up to a hearty  meal and home sweet home with happy hearts.

The most beautiful place on earth

 

 

Yes, it’s gotta be Queenstown, New Zealand.

Not only is Queenstown beautiful with its stunning scenery, it is also known as the adventure capital of the world.  Looking for thrills and spills, crags and canyons, Queenstown has them all.

Explore Queenstown, expose your soul and be rejuvenated in the natural beauty of Lake Wakatipu.

We love Queenstown to bits and we are blessed to be less than 2 hours flight away.

Here are some lovely shots we took when we were there for a short visit last weekend.

 

Looks can be deceiving

I was captivated by this awesome picture.

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And this looks even better.

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We were on a short break staying at Novotel Lakeside Queenstown, our favourite Queenstown Accommodation with its private spa/Jacuzzi.

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We thought a pamper at Onsen Hot pools would be a luxury.

We booked for a 6pm soak, took the complimentary shuttle which was supposed to depart at 5.30pm but we waited a bit for some others who didn’t show up.  Upon arrival at Onsen, we would have thought we could get into the bath tub as booked but we had to wait another 10 minutes or so before being given a room.

A unique feature of Onsen Hot Pools are the retractable picture windows: Convert your pool room from indoor to outdoor and back again at the touch of a button!  That was cool but it got dark too soon and we could only see the stars and not the view.  Perhaps choosing a day entry would be better for those who are looking for views across the Shotover Canyon.  For those who want to look at the stars and happy to pay an extra $20 per pool for the cost of lighting 14 lanterns, then by all means get your enjoyment from gazing at the stars.

The fare was for an hour but we didn’t really get our whole hour’s worth as shuttle departed late and yet we had to wait to be served.  We were told if you were still not dressed or ready when the buzzer comes on, you will have to use the public changing room.

We came looking for relaxation and some pamper but it was more like a rushed  impersonal experience.  If we have to wait, perhaps a glass of water with a slice of lime would be cheap enough to make us feel special.

We should have used that money for a sumptuous feed and then soak at Novotel’s private Jacuzzi instead.

Would you pay $115 for two people for a hot soak gazing at the stars?

 

 

 

All images credit to the original contributors.

8 days/7 nights Cairns/Port Douglas

I didn’t choose to avoid Cyclone Cook but it just so happened that my trip to Cairns and Port Douglas coincided with the bad Auckland weather from 9 to 16 April 2017.

This post is to record memories of my trip and a guide for those looking to visit Cairns and Port Douglas.

20170409_070813_resizedDay 1

We flew in to Cairns in the morning and pick up our rental car.

The drive from the airport to Port Douglas took us past the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. A return ride on the Skyrail cost $77 giving visitors a sky view of Cairns’ Rainforest.   We gave that a miss and instead drove up to Kuranda Heritage Market.

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We arrived at our lovely Port Douglas Motel and stayed there for three nights.  We were initially quite reserved when we read about having to share a communal kitchen but the kitchen was neat and with an open plan next to the pool, making ‘dining in’ is as pleasant as ‘dining out’.

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Day 2

This was one of the best day of the trip.

Mossman Gorge was a beautiful surprise.  The gateway was through the Mossman Gorge Centre.  Entry fee of $9.50 included shuttle to the beautiful rainforest with walkway through the rainforest to the lovely waterfall and clear water suitable for swimming.  Mossman Gorge forms the southern sector of the renowned Daintree Rainforest.

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DSC09213Going further south, we made a stop at Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises.  If you want to spot a crocodile (or more), take this cruise @ $27 per adult.  Our guide had a dog with him and that reminded me of my Toby at home.

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We went to Daintree Village and had our afternoon tea at Daintree Village Hotel.

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We missed out visiting Cape Tribulation where two spectacular World Heritage sites meet (the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef) as it was getting too dark.  The Daintree Rainforest is a world untouched by the world of urban development, noise and air pollution.

For better planning, it pays to start the trip earlier (perhaps from 9am) so you could visit Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation then Daintree in that order.  To get to Cape Tribulation, you need to go on a car ferry so look out for the ‘Ferry’ road sign before heading to Daintree Village.

We made in just in time back to Port Douglas for captivating views of the sunset at The Reef Marina.

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Day 3

Today was a free and easy stroll to explore the town.  Macrossan street is the main street full of shops and restaurants.

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We drove up Flagstaff Hill for sensational views over the Four Mile Beach.

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We visited Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort so if you are looking for a luxury stay, this is the place to be.

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Day 4

Goodbye Port Douglas.

Heading to Cairns, we stopped by Palm Cove and Trinity Beach.

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Arriving Cairns, our first stop was at Cairns Botanical Garden.  The Botanical Garden is a ‘must do’ when visiting Cairns as it is like no other botanical gardens I have seen with its walking tracks abound in this natural wonder of rainforest.

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We checked into Cairns New Chalon, situated at old Bruce Highway, 5km from the city centre.  This is an older hotel but clean and well kept with a nice pool.  If you want to stay in a comfortable reasonably priced accommodation away from the city, this is the place to come to provided you have a car.  The only downside is that although the pool is open till 10pm daily, there were no lights in the pool so we did not enjoy the pool facility as we only got back to the motel till later most evenings the four nights we were there.  The motel came with free (and fast) wifi which was a bonus.

After a relaxing afternoon, we visited the night market shopping for some souvenirs.  The food court looked tempting and we went back another night to feast on those dishes!

Day 5

Atherton Tableland is a ‘food paradise’.

We planned to visit Skywalk and Paronella Park hence we took the route heading south towards Gordonvale to Atherton.  We could have planned the trip better instead of a last minute decision to combine the trip.  This route is not recommended as it is very windy driving through the Gillies Range for a big part of the journey.  There is nothing much to see till we reached the beautiful village of Yungaburra.  We also didn’t get to see Atherton Tableland as a ‘food paradise’ as such on this trip.

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This journey (waterfall circuit) however brought us past various waterfalls (we visited Malanda Falls and Milla Millaa Falls) and the region’s natural wonders such as the Curtain Fig Tree, Lake Tinaroo, Mt Hypipamee Crater, Undara Lava Tubes, Broomfield Swamp, Paronella Park and the twin crater lakes of Barrine and Eacham just to name a few!

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After a late lunch at Millaa Millaa, we headed towards Mamu Tropical Skywalk.  This walk is through an elevated walkway, 350 m long, rising from ground level to 15 m above the ground, meandering through the canopy of lush tropical rainforest.  A 10 m long cantilever and a 37 m high observation tower with two viewing decks, providing spectacular views over the North Johnstone River gorge and surrounding rainforest-clad peaks.  I am glad I braved though the see-through steps (do not look down or you will get shaky knees) and climbed up the observation tower !

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Our final stop was at Parenolla Park.  We paid for the entrance to this park when we visited Skywalk.  The cost is $62 each for entrances to both parks.  Parenolla Park  features José Paronella’s castle (now in ruins). He chose a special part of Australia and created Paronella Park on a 5 Hectares section beside Mena Creek Falls.  You can view part of the section and Mena Creek Falls for free by driving past the Park but you won’t have access to Paronella’s Castle or the Park.

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Day 6

This was a great day with a difference.  The visit to Cairns/Port Douglas would not be complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  My friend visited Fitzroy Island while we did a snorkeling trip to the Outer Barrier Reef.  The ride on Sea Quest was 90 minutes each way and took us 70km offshore from Cairns.  We were treated to a sumptuous buffet lunch with cold meats (juicy prawns included) and salads, bread rolls, hot soup and fresh fruit.  The snorkelling trip to two open reef sites cost us $145 (including $20 levy charges) per person.  I was initially planning to do a scuba dive but was a bit reserved after news of yet another recent incident where a scuba diver (same boat trip as my colleague) died while scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkelling is somewhat safer as it is suitable for swimmers and non swimmers alike.  For confidence, you could even put on a life vest (and grab a swim noodle too) and the tour diver has a ‘float tyre’ that you can hang on to and he pulls you along.  I thought that was a great service and we had a few people who ‘snorkelled’ without much effort on their part.

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We arrived back to Cairns Marlin Marina around 4.30pm and walked to the Esplanade for a dip at the Lagoon.  The Lagoon is a 4800sq m salt water swimming facility that offers an all-year round, free and safe, swimming location without stingers and crocodiles.  The Lagoon is filled with salt water from the Trinity Inlet which is filtered through a state-of-the-art filtration system.  I rated Cairns highly because of this awesome pool.

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Dinner was at the night market food court.  For an extra big plate at $16.50, we get to pile as much as we could of delicious meat and seafood.  Yummilicious !

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Day 7

Last day and we will be flying home tomorrow morning.

We went to the Saturday crafts market at the esplanade and explore the city visiting Cairns Central for window shopping.  The ‘highlight’ of the day was changing a flat tyre as it was Easter Saturday so we diy.  No roadside assistance required.

With the whole afternoon being free and easy, we decided to have a go again at Atherton Tableland.  This time, we did the food trail (part of Savannah Way) driving through Kuranda on the road leading to Broome.  We went as far as Mareeba, a town on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland, Australia. The town is 417 metres above sea level on the confluence of the Barron River, Granite Creek and Emerald Creek.

Our first stop was a Jaques Coffee for lunch.

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We were heading for Golden Drop Winery to taste their mango wine but got diverted and ended up at de Bruceys Boutique Winery instead.  Their ‘Envy’ Crème Liquer was a total giveaway of melon (honey dew) that we could tell by smell without even having to taste it.   Such refreshing drink, a great summer treat.

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On the return trip, we stopped for ice cream at Emerald Creek Ice Creamery.

The last stop for the day was a Yorkeys Knob on the eastern coast of Australia. Westing from the Coral Sea – approaching land from the east, Yorkeys Knob sits very prettily on the hem of the great Barrier Reef.

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Day 8

We said goodbye to Cairns & Home sweet home !

Will be enjoying a sip of Envy this weekend and perhaps Coffee Temptation tonight instead of our regular Baileys.

Jolt ! Back to reality.

 

 

A rainy day at Hamilton Gardens

It was predicted to rain yesterday in Hamilton.  The weather forecast reviewed 40% rain and a cloudy day.

We decided to proceed to Waikato Balloons, rain or shine as planned.

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Our first stopover was at the coal town, Huntly.  The Huntly Power Station is a distinctive landmark alongside the Waikato River, visible from many parts of the town and beyond.

A visit to Hamilton is not complete without a stroll at Hamilton Gardens.  The gardens are beautiful and green, rain or shine. You can visit Indian, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, English or Modernist Gardens and many more without having to fly to those countries.  How amazing, thanks to Hamilton Gardens.

That was one Saturday well spent.

The weather wasn’t too unkind to us.  Everyone came home happy.

 

What earthquake did to our beautiful places

Earthquake, earthquake go away !
Why did you hit us when we did nothing wrong ?

I am still so dazed over the severe 7.8 quake that hit North Canterbury last Monday.  In any one tiny moment, a sudden turn of events, one’s life could change forever.

You can follow my journey here for the once beautiful Kaikoura.

The quake aftermath.  Images credit to all relevant sources.

The drive heading north from Kaikoura on State Highway 1 in New Zealand's South Island.

LAWRENCE SMITH

The drive heading north from Kaikoura on State Highway 1 in New Zealand’s South Island.

Rock lifted above sea level by Monday's earthquakes on State Highway One near Kaikoura. Photo / Supplied

Rock lifted above sea level by Monday’s earthquakes on State Highway One near Kaikoura. Paua exposed by the earthquake on the coast near Oaro, south of Kaikoura.
ANNA REDMOND

Parts of the uplifted coast look like an alien world.

TREVOR BURKHART

Parts of the uplifted coast look like an alien world.

Damage to buildings on Wakefield Street, Wellington.

NICK KINGSTONE

Damage to buildings on Wakefield Street, Wellington.

Even our capital city Wellington is not spared and Hutt Valley residents had to evacuate their homes.

These are only a few shots of the damages.

With sadden heart, let us pray for all the families involved in this disaster and the whole nation of New Zealand.

(Prayer credit Laura Yap).

Lord,
Protect your children
Bring peace to the frightened
And swift recovery to the injured.
Father God, we ask for the earth to still
And the water to rest around New Zealand,
Blanket the people in your Holy Spirit
And give them strength
Thank you, Father.

Amen.

Sandringham Spices & More

Spring is here !

Sunny Saturday and we decided to visit the suburb of Sandringham, popular for its Indian restaurants, colourful mix of halaal butchers, Indian food and spices.

Surprisingly enough, we noticed that beyond Bollywood food and spices, Barber shops were bustling with men queuing up for haircuts!

Too bad we missed out the photos of Bollywood singles and barber shops.

 

If you are visiting Auckland and looking for something different, check out Eat Auckland and join the Sandringham Food and Spice Tour that introduces you to the best flavours Sandringham Village has to offer.

 

A week’s break and bonding time

Living in NZ, the closest overseas short break is, of course, Australia.

So last weekend I joined the crowd, How’s it going, mate?

Have been to Sydney lots of times, not that I would choose Sydney for a holiday venue but it is central to meet with overseas family and friends, likewise, Melbourne, Brisbane or Gold Coast.  A break and bonding with my sister and her family while Sydney celebrates its Vivid Lights.

There were good and bad things to share during the week’s trip.

The bonding and togetherness were perfect though we did not stay in the same hotel but the two days out of six was quality time spent.

The bad thing was the highlight of the trip which was supposed to be the Vivid Cruise but the cruise company changed vessel at the last minute and we probably got a smaller vessel or something else which was rocking all the way for 90 minutes.  We were on the open deck and those plastic tables and chairs were moving so much and my poor sister ended up moving to the bottom deck, though a bit comfortable but she still got sea sick.  I don’t even think the food was similar to what they listed when we bought the tickets.  Anyway, the trip was a torture than a treat.

On a nicer note, I walked around circular quay and got to enjoy the lights better that way, though hungry and ended up with a late night dinner.  My poor sister got so sick that she threw up and went back with her family to the hotel !

Regardless, I am still inspired by the curves in Sydney and that is perhaps the reason why I kept going back there even though there are many nicer cities in Australia for holidays.  My favourites being Tasmania and Adelaide and its surrounds.

Aussies, we Kiwis still love you, mates.  Do you love us, bro?

Hunua Falls

My daughter and me visited the Hunua Falls on Easter Saturday.

I was going to share how lovely and how easy it was to access to the falls.  Just a short 5 to 20minutes walk will get you there from the car park as there are three accesses to this seemingly lovely waterfall.  Had I shared this story the day we visited the falls, it would have be written differently.

Yesterday (a day after we visited), an Easter holiday trip to a scenic waterfall turned to despair when a 13-year-old boy disappeared beneath the water as his desperate family tried in vain to save him.

A sign at the falls and the council website warn visitors to the falls that the waterfall pool is unsafe for swimming.

“Things go wrong in the water when people underestimate risk or overestimate their ability to cope with the risk.”   – quote Hunua Ranges Regional Park senior ranger Wayne Carlson

I guess this incident reinstate that care must be taken in all situations and things may not be what they look on the surface.  Looks can be deceiving and taking things for granted can often cause failures, disappointments and even death.

Over confidence is the most dangerous form of carelessness.

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