Monthly Archives: January 2014

The awkward moment when your in-laws gate crash your honeymoon…

After our long weekend in Sydney, we flew to Auckland to spend just over 5 months in Middle- Earth itself, New Zealand. As our special guest blogger Mr B has explained, the Bowers met us at the airport with their excellent homemade sign, and we were hugely impressed that they didn’t vault the barriers and run towards us as soon as we got through immigration!

This guy was also waiting for us at the airport

This guy was also waiting for us at the airport

We’ve been here for 2 weeks now, and each week couldn’t have been more different! After being reunited, we drove out to the Coromandel Peninsula to spend a week in a Bach, a house overlooking the beach and the sea with spectacular views through the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass and balconies on every level. After 5 months backpacking and hostels, this place was heaven. We had a proper cup of tea, then some crisps and dip, and just like that, we didn’t miss the rice and noodles any more.

A nice change from rice

A nice change from rice

The week flew by too quickly, and we had a great time. The nearest beach was just a short walk down the cliff path, and the ‘busy’ days had about 20 people on it. On our second full day, I drove a car for the first time in months and we went from Tairua, where we were staying, up to Whitianga – before our wedding we bought Mr and Mrs B a voucher for a scenic flight over the peninsula from there.

Still better than AirAsia

Still better than AirAsia

After waiting about 20 minutes, a little plane landed and the pilot, who looked younger than me, hopped out, gave the Bowers a map and let them decide on their own route over the area. I think they were suitably impressed! That afternoon we drove over to Hot Water Beach, so-called because under a certain part of the beach at low tide, a thermal stream over the sand. People rent a spade, dig a pool, and in an area about 30 metres square, everyone sits in their own handmade hot spring!

Spot the bit with the hot water

Spot the bit with the hot water

Hail to the chef

Hail to the chef

During the week, we also went kayaking in the local estuary, visited the amazing Cathedral Cove (the walk there along the cliffs was spectacular, and the archway in the cliffs is awesome) and ate a lot of amazing food. One night, we went out for a meal and after we’d eaten went to watch a band, and the small audience of drunk oldies singing along turned out to be mainly from Cornwall as well – small world.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Amazing views

Amazing views

The only drawback was the wifi – there wasn’t any at the house we were staying in, so we had to go down and sit outside the local library to use it. Whilst this wasn’t a bad thing in itself, one morning that Law and I went down and left Mr and Mrs B at the house, around 5 minutes after we left a pod of dolphins swam past and essentially performed in the bay the whole time we were out. Bottle-nosed jerks.

Using the only wifi in the village

Using the only wifi in the village

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A guest blog from Dad

Well, we have joined up with the Honeymooners….seems a bit weird,but it is great to see these two wild-looking travellers, healthy, tanned, slimmer, and happy.

We embarrassed them straight away by greeting them with a lovely sign, welcoming them to Auckland. They came out of the Arrivals area and walked straight past. Oh well!

Welcome to New Zealand!

Welcome to New Zealand!

We have been in New Zealand for two weeks already. What an amazing, beautiful and completely indescribable place. We feel so relaxed and Sam and Laura too have got straight in to the way of life.

Staying in a 'Bach' in the coromandel

Staying in a ‘Bach’ in the coromandel

We are staying in Tairua in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Pacific and the coast towards Hot Water Beach, which we tried this morning. Took us a few minutes to get it but after scalding our feet we finally made a pool and, basically, had a hot bath in the sand. The water seeps up from a thermal well on the beach and people bring their spades and dig and wallow…sheer bliss. The first beach we have been to where we have had to sit within 100 yards of other human beings.

Hot springs on Hot Water Beach

Hot springs on Hot Water Beach

Sam and Laura bought us a scenic flight over the Coromandel peninsular. It is hard to describe the beauty and the sense of uninhabited wilderness that you get from the air.

Scenic flight over the Coromandel

Scenic flight over the Coromandel

It is great spending time with Sam and Laura. I have spooked Sam a bit by showing him the Maori sign of respect between men (and some of these Maori men are huge).
If you are reading this then we have managed to get wifi by sitting outside the town library in Tairua, bars and restaurants do not automatically have wifi (maybe a good thing!)

Tairua beach

Tairua beach

Thanks for reading this, the longest piece of writing I have done since an essay I wrote in 2nd year at school.
Pete Bower (Father/Father-in-Law)

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There’s nothing like Australia!

Our stop off in Sydney on the way to Auckland was only for four days, but it was definitely one of the most fantastic cities that we have been to. We loved it!

Sydney Airport... Friendliest staff ever!

Sydney Airport… Friendliest staff ever!

Apart from the awesome food, weather and sites, we had some lovely Aussies to put us up and show us round, which definitely helped us see the city in a different way.

We found our hosts through airbnb.com, which is a great way to find a cheap place to sleep, usually in someone’s spare room. Sally and her flat mates have a really cute house in Kiribilli with gorgeous views over the harbour, and they were all really nice, giving us the full run of their house. We cooked pasta for the first time, after 5 months of rice and noodles and it was amazing!

Happy pasta face

Happy pasta face

On our first night we had a drink in the Opera House bar, overlooking the Sydney harbour, the bridge and the opera house, which were all lit up beautifully. It was so amazing, and slightly surreal, to be sitting in front of such an famous image.

The Opera Bar at night

The Opera Bar at night

In the morning we did an excellent (and free!) walking tour around the city, learnt some good facts about Sydney and then a had a “coat of arms” pizza – half emu and half kangaroo… mmmm delicious!

The Australian Coat of Arms

The Australian Coat of Arms

...is better on a pizza

…is better on a pizza

We then caught up with our friend Verity from Melbourne, who we met on the Trans-Siberian express, and spent the weekend with her and some of her Sydney friends. They were so lovely and took us to all the big touristy sites, as well as some interesting different local places.

We started with a very trendy brunch in a hipster cafe in Surrey Hills, before hitting Bondi beach for some sunbathing and ice cream. It was absolutely packed, but the sunshine was beautiful and the sand and water were so clean. In the evening we went to a bar that was so cool it didn’t have a sign – just a long queue of people outside – followed by a craft beer pub and a chocolate bar, where they only serve chocolate themed things.

Bondi fun with the locals

Bondi fun with the locals

The next day we managed to see a show at the Opera House, although not anything very cultured unfortunately. The opera itself was over $100, so we managed to get some $25 tickets for a “Vegas style magic show” called The Illusionists, by getting up early and doing some good queuing! It’s an awesome building and, although it was not what the auditorium was built for, the show itself was pretty fun :-).

Nothing wrong with the cheap seats

Nothing wrong with the cheap seats

Sydney was brilliant, and we have decided we definitely need to come back to Australia again one day. Now on to Auckland to be met at the airport by mum and dad. Really looking forward to seeing them… and to being properly fed and looked after!

Bye bye Sydney

Bye bye Sydney

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KL and Singapore: our last few days in Asia

After enjoying the cool climate in the Cameron Highlands we got the bus to Kuala Lumpur and returned to the hot weather.

We didn't feel the need to get the tshirt though...

We didn’t feel the need to get the tshirt though…

KL is huge, modern and very clean compared to the recent cities we’ve been to in Asia, but it still has some really traditional, interesting neighbourhoods, as well as the skyscrapers and shopping malls.

The market in Chinatown

The market in Chinatown

We stayed in Chinatown and spent a nice few evenings eating Chinese street food again and wondering around the markets. It’s definitely more expensive in Malaysia than we’ve been used to, although it’s still not too hard to find cheap noodles.

On our second day we headed into the town to see the famous Petronus Towers and marvelled them from the ground, rather than paying the RM80 entrance fee! They are pretty incredible to see and are set in a lovely park.

The Petronus Towers

The Petronus Towers

KL is also supposed to be a shoppers paradise, but there are so many malls, all interlinked that we got disorientated and a bit overwhelmed. So we had some giant iced coffees instead 🙂

The man-crèche in the mall

The man-crèche in the mall

For our final stop in Asia we spent 2 days in the incredibly expensive but really fun city of Singapore. After a night train with just a seated ticket, rather than a sleeping one, we got to the city at 7am and immediately noticed how friendly everyone was, offering us sleepy tourists directions and tips of things to do. We headed out to wander around the marina, which is just full of incredible architecture.

The Marina Bay Sands Resort. We think we'll stay there next time.

The Marina Bay Sands Resort. We think we’ll stay there next time.

We had a great time walking around the waterfront and some of the malls, even buying some jeans so we finally look less like backpacker tourists.

We then cashed in one of our wonderful wedding presents (thanks Sharon and Charlie) and had a very extravagant but fabulous Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, Raffels Hotel. It was full of tourists like us, taking tonnes of photos and eating lots of free peanuts to make up for the $60 bar tab! Totally worth it though, it was a great experience.

Singapore Slings at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel

Singapore Slings at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel

On day 2 we went to Singapore Zoo, which was definitely the best zoo I have ever been too (recommended by Bex who is an expert on zoos)! They have over 2500 animals who are in really natural looking enclosures, rather than cages, including pigmy hippos, free ranging orangutangs, white tigers and even a polar bear. It was brilliant, we stayed all day.

Awesome polar bear

Awesome polar bear

The elephant show at Singapore Zoo

The elephant show at Singapore Zoo

A white tiger

A white tiger

Singapore was our last stop in Asia and tomorrow we fly to Sydney for the weekend. We will definitely miss cheap food, beer and hostels, but are looking forward to the next stage of our adventures.

Saying goodbye to Asia at Singapore airport

Saying goodbye to Asia at Singapore airport

Categories: Malaysia, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Colonials

We’re a bit behind on the blog, but are currently sheltering from the monsoon rain in Singapore so it’s a good time to catch up.

After an amazing Christmas on Langkawi, we caught the ferry to almost mainland Malaysia and spent a few days in Georgetown on Penang. Georgetown is renowned for its food, so we were very much looking forward to our time here! It was founded (because nothing existed before the Brits got there, obviously) in the 1780s as a trading port, and attracted a huge mix of peoples.

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Nowadays, there are some really distinct and areas of Chinese, Indian and Malay culture, all thrown together with old colonial buildings and architecture and street names like Campbell, King and Buckingham Streets.

A mix of different building styles in Georgetown

A mix of different building styles in Georgetown

The main area is the old town, and it’s quite compact and easy to navigate on foot. We spent our days wandering around, eating in the food courts and on the street corners and generally enjoying the city. When the heat got too much, we would dive into a nice cafe or coffee shop to enjoy the wifi and a/c, and then head back out.

We resisted the temptation for a man utd burger and stuck to curry and noodles!

We resisted the temptation for a man utd burger and stuck to curry and noodles!

Malaysia is lot more expensive than we’ve been used to, but we managed to get by with staying in a pretty basic hotel and spending our time out and about.

So much curry...

So much curry…

The main highlight for me though was finally seeing the new Hobbit film (though during the Elvish and Orcish scenes there were no English subs, just Malay and Chinese!).

When curry for breakfast and the heat finally got to us, we caught the bus to Tanah a Rata in the Cameron Highlands on New Year’s Eve morning. It was a 4 hour journey, the last part spent winding up through the mountains and into the clouds. After the British settled, they used the Highlands to escape the heat, and due to the climate in the area, cleared masses of the forest to make tea plantations and strawberry farms. There was still a lot of curry in the town, but alongside were cafés with tea and scones for sale which was quite surreal.

The Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands

Like proper colonials, we didn’t do a lot more than relax here. Tanah Rata is the backpacker hub of the area but is still super quiet – one street of restaurants and shops is about it. We stayed at a nice hostel, and spent our New Year’s Eve sat around the campfire, and for the next days chilled out.

New Year's Eve in the highlands

New Year’s Eve in the highlands

We explored the nearby mossy forest (“it’s covered in all the mossy”, our hostel informed us), and visited a tea plantation and strawberry farm to sample the produce.

Mossy Forrest

Mossy Forest

New Year’s Day made us realise we were about to spend the next 6 months in New Zealand, so the time in the highlands was actually quite useful to do a lot of planning. Law’s folks are currently in NZ, and whilst we have really enjoyed Asia, we can’t wait to get to Middle Earth!

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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