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Queenstown and The Remarkables

Photo of Queenstown, New Zealand

View of Queenstown from the Skyline gondola terminal.

Queenstown and The Remarkables are located in the South Island of New Zealand. Queenstown is a busy town, mainly catering for tourists from all over the world. The Remarkables is the iconic mountain range that you can see from various places around Queenstown.

Being one of New Zealand’s premier tourist spots, there are a lot of visitors in Queenstown every day. And there is snow in winter. We stayed here for a few nights. Queenstown has wonderful scenery – the big beautiful Lake Wakatipu at the a front, surrounded by rugged mountains.

In Queenstown, many houses have been built around the lake, in different styles. Most of these are quite new. There is also plenty of hotel accommodation for tourists. Many people use Queenstown as a base to explore other areas, such as Milford Sound or Rob Roy Glacier near Wanaka.

Photo of TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

TSS Earnslaw ("The Lady Of The Lake") on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Many tourists like to go on the TSS Earnslaw – a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer – to have a look around the lake and sometimes to look around Walter Peak High Country Farm. Others prefer to take a jet boat for an exhilarating ride in the big lake and down the narrow (and shallow) rivers. The passengers scream whenever the jet boat does a “Hamilton Turn”, where the jet boat suddenly stops and spins around 360 degrees in one spot. But despite the screams, they’re all having fun.

Photo of The Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand

The Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand

One day, we decided to take a drive up to The Remarkables. It looks as elegant and beautiful as its name. The view is spectacular. You can see all around the Queenstown and Arrowtown area from various points along the drive. The Remarkables are one of the many places around Queenstown to be featured on “The lord of the rings”.

In the afternoon we went up on the Skyline gondola in Queenstown. This is an enclosed chairlift that takes you 450 metres up to the top of another mountain – Bob’s Peak. Inside the top terminal is where the Skyline Restaurant and Skyline Bar is located. From there, you can see all of Queenstown with the blue lake and The Remarkables at the back. This is a very busy spot. But I’m so glad we made it. This view point has the most awesome views I have ever seen.

We went to the bar for a drink, then stared out over Queenstown and The Remarkables.

Photo of the Skyline Luge in Queenstown, New Zealand

The Skyline Luge in Queenstown, New Zealand

If you do go on the gondola, you should also try the Skyline Luge – an 800 metre luge track that runs above the top terminal. Unfortunately, we missed the cut of time by 5 minutes, so we didn’t get to try the Luge. But we saw others taking their run down the mountainside.

There is also a bike track that runs all the way from the bottom to the top terminal. Or should I say, all the way from the top to the bottom! You can take a gondola to the top, then ride a mountain bike all the way to the bottom.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track in New Zealand

Photo of Onetahuit Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park

Onetahuti Beach in Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular national parks. At 22,530 hectares it’s also New Zealand’s smallest national park.

Abel Tasman National Park is located at the top of the South Island. It’s very easy to get to – it’s about a one hour drive from Nelson city.

About The Abel Tasman Coast Track

Photo of Medlands Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Medlands Beach along the Abel Tasman Coast Track

One of the main attractions in this area is the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 3 – 5 day walk extending for 54.4 km around the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”

The track can be walked in either direction. You can start walking from Marahau and finish at Totaranui or even further up the coast. Or you can drive or get a boat to Totaranui and walk back to Marahau. Another option is to walk part of the track and get a water taxi back, or get a water taxi to some part of the track and walk back to the start. The possibilities are endless!

Some people visit Abel Tasman National Park just for the camping. There are camping grounds all along the Coast Track and most of them are right next to a golden sand beach. Of course everything needs to be booked in advance – especially in the summer months.

Our Walk

This was the first time in my life doing a bush walk. We did 2 days of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. But it’s not really a bush walk and the track goes alongside the beautiful ocean.The temperature was fantastic for walk. Our first day was sunny but it rained on our second day. I felt great to do this track.

Photo of Onetahuti Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Onetahuti Beach is where the water taxi dropped us off for our two day walk

We started our walk from Onetahuti Beach, near Tonga Island, and walked back to Marahau. We got an early morning water taxi from Marahau (where we parked the car). The track looked good and people kept walking past us while we took photos along the way. Some were walk in the other direction, I did not feel lonely while walking the Able Tasman track.

We stopped for our picnic lunch at Bark Bay straight after we crossed the inlet at low tide.

Photo of the tidal crossing at Bark Bay on the Abel Tasman Track

The tidal crossing at Bark Bay on the Abel Tasman Track

I lost count of how many mountains we walked over and around. Manuka trees (also called “Tea tree”) were all around all the place along the walking track. And I loved that smell of the Manuka leaf when I crush it. And it has a beautiful white flower.

The pressure of this this trip was to get to the point that we wanted to stay for the night – the Anchorage camp site. And the main challenge was to cross the huge area at Torrent Bay when the tide was low. If we missed the low tide, we would’ve had to do a detour around the estuary. Otherwise we would have no where to stay.

Luckily we made it to the Anchorage camping ground on time and set the tent up. All up, it took about 4 hours to get there from Onetahuti Beach. But of course, we stopped for lunch and swims along the way.

We wanted to have dinner on the beach. But because the wind was blowing into Anchorage bay, we decided to walk the ten minutes or so to Te Pukatea Bay which faces the other direction, so should be more sheltered. Then we made a nice dinner on the beach to celebrate my birthday.

We got up very early in the morning while the rest of the camp was still sleeping. We woke to the amazingly beautiful chorus of birds singing. It was so relaxing and was like beautiful music coming from everywhere. We’ve only heard this sound in New Zealand.

The temperature was quite cold and it started to rain, so we started our walk back to Marahau. By the time we got back, we were completely drenched. But we really enjoyed the hot pumpkin soup from the Cafe!

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

Milford Sound in New Zealand

Milford sound is located at the south-west corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Here you can take a boat trip around the sound (actually, it’s not a “sound”, it’s a “fjord”).

Milford Sound is also the finish point for those hiking the famous Milford Track. If you want to walk the Milford Track you’ll need to book early, as it usually gets booked out many months in advance. This is because it’s one of the most famous walking tracks in the world, and only a limited number of people are permitted to walk the track at any time.

Milford sound gets the most rainfall of any place in New Zealand. Actually, with an average of 8 metres of rain per year, it’s one of the wettest places in the world. That’s probably the reason this place is so green all year round.

On our way to Milford Sound we met the kea. The kea is the world’s only mountain parrot and is native to New Zealand.

Most of the tourists are from around the world wanting to see the natural wonders of Milford Sound.

When we were first approaching Milford Sound I thought I was dreaming. Because of the beautiful natural environment. There were massive waterfalls all around the place. They were pouring down from the high mountains in to both sides of the road and into the rivers.

Milford sound looks like a magical world and made up only in a movie. That makes me think of the “Avatar” movie – that fictional world – but this one is for real, I can’t stop feeling impressed by this place.

More rain kept falling down, more water fall kept running. It just happened everywhere. I can see why this is one of the wettest places in the world!

We made a last minute booking for the overnight boat. The ticket included dinner and non-alcoholic drinks.

Photo of a boat under a waterfall at Milford Sound

Boat under waterfall at Milford Sound

But you have to remember that this place is really cold and it rains nearly everyday. The best way to have fun is to take a rain coat with you to keep yourself warm and dry(ish). I found it very cold – even though it was summer time.

The boat also had kayaks for passenger use. Many passengers jumped in the kayaks, but it was too cold and wet for me. All I could do is keep drinking hot tea.

Photo of kayaks at Milford Sound in New Zealand

The boat trip included free use of kayaks. During rain, Milford Sound has thousands of waterfalls pouring down the mountain.

During the trip, we went past the “four sisters” waterfalls. It was such a beautiful waterfall. Four water falls side by side, pouring down the mountain into the sea. At one point, the captain drove the boat under one of the large waterfalls. If you weren’t wet before, you were now!

Rob Roy Glacier in New Zealand

Photo of the Rob Roy Glacier walking track

The Rob Roy Glacier track is a spectacular hike

The Rob Roy Glacier walking track is near Wanaka, New Zealand. We stayed at Wanaka for a couple nights while we did a few things, including walking the Rob Roy Glacier track. The weather had been quite rough and were hoping for a clear sky day.

We booked into a cabin at a camping ground in Wanaka town. The cabin that we stayed was very small. It nearly rolled over once during the windy night. Luckily, in the morning the sky was open and clear and it was a sunny day.

The Rob Roy Glacier track starts in the Matukituki Valley, about an hour’s drive from Wanaka. We started walking from the Raspberry Flat car-park, which is at the end of the road.

We walked though the farmland for about 15 minutes and over a swingbridge that crossed the glacier river. On the farmland lots of sheep were staring at us and ready to run away, which was very cute to see. But of course, we weren’t going to hurt them.

After we crossed the glacier river, the track starts to get harder and you need to be careful that you don’t fall down a cliff. I was too scared to look down from the track in some places. For other people, this is probably an easy track.

We can see the waterfall from a long way as it falls down from the glacier. We were amazed to see most of the water was returning back to the top of the waterfall. That was because of the strong winds up there. The water was only getting half way down the cliff before being blown back up by the wind!

Photo of a waterfall at Rob Roy Glacier

Photo of the waterfall being blown back up the cliff

We were walking slower than many others, because we were taking so many photos. The more we walked, the closer we were to the glacier. My legs were tired but my heart kept telling me to keep going – we’re nearly there! But we could see the Rob Roy Glacier right there in front of us!!! I was very excited and couldn’t wait to get close to it.

Photo of cascading waterfalls at Rob Roy Glacier

Cascading waterfalls at Rob Roy Glacier

Finally we made it. We had lunch at the view point looking right up at Rob Roy Glacier. And the waterfalls going upside down, falling up, just fitted in perfectly at the view point. It was the most beautiful glacier view I’ve ever seen.

Picton, New Zealand

Photo of Picton in New Zealand

Picton is where you board the ferry to cross to Wellington

Picton in New Zealand was the last town of the South Island before we caught the ferry to Wellington in the North Island. It is located at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound in the Marlborough Sounds, which is in the Marlborough region at the north-east part of the South Island.

This place had very nice scenery. It is quite a small town and we almost couldn’t find accommodation. It may be because a lot of tourists are waiting for their ferry transfer.

Our accommodation at Picton town was different to most of our other accommodation in New Zealand. Most of the accommodation we tried was already fully booked, but we eventually found a caravan park at a hideaway location. This accommodation is very special. Because it is build right underneath a train track. Every time a train went past the place shook with the noise. But for some reason we fell asleep quickly because we were tired.

Photo of train running through the middle of the camping ground

This photo was taken from our cabin. You'll need to be very tired if you want to sleep here!

The beautiful part of Picton is the ocean is surrounded by the mountains, that make up a very large area. It’s deep enough to fit the big ships in. The water is quite calm, probably because it’s sheltered by the surrounding mountains.

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Photo of Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Fox Glacier in New Zealand, as seen from one of the lookouts

Fox Glacier is located on the west coast of the South Island in New Zealand. The place is beautiful. The glacier is so crystal blue and waiting for tourists visit. From a distance, you can see Mount Cook standing behind the glacier.

Parts of the glacier are constantly breaking off and floating down the the Fox River. When we visited, steam was rising from the river, forming a constant haze about 2 or 3 feet above the river. This was probably demonstrates how cold the water was. The river had huge chunks of ice floating down it (these had fallen off the glacier into the river).

Many tour companies stop over at Fox Glacier. Everybody was walking to the Fox Glacier. Some went on guided tours that actually climb on top of the glacier. At least it keeps the body temperature warm.

Photo of Fox Glacier walking track

Walking to Fox Glacier

Not far from the Fox Glacier is the caravan park that we stayed at. The rain was still falling, and the temperature was very cold. Maybe that’s the reason this area has such beautiful glaciers around.

Rotorua, New Zealand

Photo of Rotorua in New Zealand

One of the public mud pools in Rotorua

Rotorua is located in the North Island of New Zealand. This place is very famous for its mud pools and thermal activity.

The town is quite popular. Tourists from all over the world visit Rotorua.

I was excited to get to Rotorua, and thought it would be nice to go to a body spa after our long journey and have a nice dinner.

This town is just amazing because everywhere you go, you see natural geysers spraying out of the ground.

But the smell…. the whole town has a really bad smell. Suddenly I gave up the idea of having a spa because I was’t sure if I could stand that smell. We went to bed and I still felt bad. During the night I wished the night to be short. I couldn’t breath, my negative feeling started.

Anyway, we drove out of town early the next morning. So I missed my body spa at Rotorua!

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Photo of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

View of Lake Tekapo from our balcony at Peppers Bluewater Resort

Lake Tekapo is located in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s quite a popular place with the tourists. There are many hotel accommodations near the lake.

We stayed at Peppers Bluewater Resort which has a spectacular view over Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains. When the sun is shining, the lake is a beautiful turquoise colour and is stunning to look at.

In the morning we went for walk and went looking for an internet cafe. We couldn’t find an internet cafe, but we did find a cafe with a computer that was connected to the internet. The shops are situated in the same area, which is near the lake. Most of them sell local product such as woollen cardigans, scarves, lotions, and souvenirs.

The next day we drove up to the Mt John Observatory and looked over Lake Tekapo. Up there is a restaurant/coffee shop called Astro Cafe. The view makes this is a spectacular place to have with a cup of coffee. Even the Lonely Planet Guide describes it as “possibly the best place on the planet for a coffee”. From here, you can see the whole town of Tekapo from along the side of the lake.

Pancake Rocks in New Zealand

Photo of Pancake Rocks in New Zealand

Pancake Rocks look like giant pancakes beside the ocean

Pancake Rocks is located on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. They are located at Dolomite Point, near the small village of Punakaiki which is located in between Greymouth and Westport.

Not 100% sure why they’re called Pancake Rocks, but maybe it’s because they look like giant pancakes coming out of the ocean! This incredible effect to the rocks was made by the ocean, wind, and acidic rain.

Looking out to the large, wild ocean, I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the world. I feel so lucky to see this beautiful part of the earth.

Not far from the Pancake Rocks is the Punakaiki Resort. As far I can see, here is the best place to stay. Lucky we get the table for dinner, because everyone has to book early. We even saw someone being turned away not long after we booked, because they were fully booked. They had good food, good accommodation and good views.

I like the idea of the tunnel underneath the road for connections to some parts of the hotel (as the hotel is located on both sides of the highway). This accommodation was quite busy, maybe because the tour companies book it.

On the way to Pancake Rocks we drove past Greymouth, which is also beautiful. The spectacular beach was made by black and white rock, which is a change from the usual sand beaches.

Boracay Philippines

Photo of swimmers at White Beach at Boracay

At Boracay, the water is so tempting!

Boracay is a small island in the Philippines 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region.

The high season is between November to the end of May or the middle of June. The water is so  gorgeous clear and very still. Every thing is so nice. The temperature is around 30 degrees up. It’s very easy to hang around the beach all day.

This is the first time for me in Boracay, Philippines. Before I came, I had no idea what the place was going to look like. All I knew was from what friends had told me.

So now I’m here in Boracay Island. The place I can easily call paradise. I was so impressed when I arrived. I feel very comfortable with the place and I like it. It makes me feel so good and it’s very relaxing. I can’t wait to jump into the water again.

While I swim and relax in the water, the fish come and have a look and play with me. They try to nip my thumb, I feel like I’m in a fish spa! Some tourists are snorkelling. And the kids are enjoying building sand castles.

Photo of sunset at White Beach in Boracay

White Beach in Boracay, Philippines is a popular place to watch the sunset

 

Sailing around the island is great sight seeing. You can hire a sailing boat by the hour. You can also hire a scooter by the hour to take you sight seeing around the island.

Boracay Island is a very popular place for weekends, holidays, or even for honeymoons. Many couples choose Boracay for their wedding party. Therefore this place is has many hotels and accommodation options. For more information, here’s a link to help you decide where to stay in Boracay.

At night many bars are have a fire dancing show. It’s amazing to see. They even twirled their fire above my head once. It was a scary part of the show. But the result was great and everybody clapped their hands afterwards.

There are so many bars and restaurants all along at the front beach. So we don’t need to worry about where to eat. Many restaurants turn into a party bar at night. Also, some bars have live bands for those who just want to listen to the music.

If you like seafood, there is “D’talipapa”. This is the market for fresh seafood and other meats such as chicken. You can buy your fresh seafood from the market, then walk across to one of the restaurants that offer a “cooking service”. The restaurant will cook your seafood the way you want it. If you like cheap lobster, here is the place to be.

D'Talipapa Boracay,Philippines

Most filipino are of christian religion, and it’s normal to see many filipina wearing bikinis on the beach. Most of the locals speak tagalog and american english.

It was quite easy for us to get to Boracay from Malaysia. We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Clark airbase in Angeles City. Stayed at Angeles City for 2 nights, then flew to Caticlan airport. From Caticlan airport, we took the free connecting bus to the jetty and boarded the boat to Boracay.

Visa Extensions

When we arrived in the Philippines, we were issued with a tourist visa as we went through immigration. This allowed us to stay for 21 days. Immigration didn’t ask to see our outbound ticket, but we had already been asked for that at Kuala Lumpur.

If you’re an overseas tourist and you wish to stay longer in the Philippines, you can apply for a visa extension within the Philippines. It will cost around 3,000php for next 38 days. After that, you can extend for another 2 months, but at this point, you will need to pay an extra $50 US for an I-card – basically an ID card. After that 2 months is up, you can keep extending for at least 12 months. The fees tend to change a lot. Best that you check the official Philippines Immigration website for their visa extension fees. There is an immigration office in Boracay island. It’s currently located in the reception area of the Nirvana hotel, which is in between D’Talipapa and D’mall – the main shopping area.

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