http://www.a-littlebird.com have created a list of their favourite favourite holiday apps so i thought it’s a good opportunity to add my own list of travel Must Downloads!
Any other suggestions?
Lock Cha Tea Shop
Overall the food was quite bland however the tea was delicious so instead of having a meal here, I would use it as a stop-gap to take a breather and enjoy the lovely decor.
Fresh organic vegetables
Vermicelli noodles w/ red-in-snow
Coconut and sweet potato cake
Steamed vegetable bun in barbecue sauce
Steamed vegetable wrapper w/ dry scallop sauce
Steamed home-land sticky bun
Glutinous flour dumpling w/ cashew and peanut
Lock Cha Tea Shop
Ground Floor, The K.S. Lo Gallery
Hong Kong Park
(nearest metro: Admiralty)
I pinged awake early today and head to the hotel’s heated outdoor pool to have a swim. It’s on the 9th floor and has amazing views of the city - i really enjoyed swimming lengths, looking at the skyscrapers and harbour while Hardeep hit the treadmill to sweat out her cold (madness!)
Once we’re dressed and ready we get the metro to Admiralty to have a wander through Hong Kong Park. There’s a fountain on the way and I decide I want a picture taken from the walkway in the middle of it. If you ever visit here and the same whim takes you, I strongly advise you to fight the urge! My feet got soaked and I spent the next hour squelching around the park waiting for the heat to dry them out. Sigh. The park itself is quite small with a pond in the middle full of koi and terrapins, it’s a nice way to escape the exhaust-chocked main roads on the way to the tram that will take us to the top of Victoria Peak.
Scared of heights? Don’t take the tram! It’s like a roller-coaster and at some points it feels like we’re ascending the mountain vertically! I loved it and it was a bargain at HK$65 return, including access to the Sky terrace, Hong Kong’s highest 360’ viewing platform. The vista is stunning and this trip should be on every tourist’s HK ‘to do’ list.
One thing I should mention is the gift shops. When you get off the tram, you walk straight into a mall with a whole row of tourist tat stalls. I’m a massive fan of tourist tat, especially kitsch stuff so it takes Hardeep a good 20minutes to get me out of there (Dad and Tracey - you have an epic fridge magnet coming your way!)
After a wander around the Peak’s summit and a detour to a cute terrace, decorated with Chinese lions we hop back on the tram (totally recommend standing up on the descent!) and head to Lock Cha Tea Shop (located in the K.S. Lo Gallery in Hong Kong park) for some traditional Chinese tea and vegetable dim sum. We take advantage of the quiet time to consult our guide book and decide our next move.
I’m struggling to get my bearings in the city so a reasonably simple walk to Hollywood Road takes in a few more steep steps and uphill slopes than my feet are comfortable with but we make it eventually. The guide book tells us that this is where you’ll find traces of ‘Old Hong Kong’, there are lots of antique shops, street market stalls and a general downtrodden feel. I kinda like it and it’s a far cry from the clean, neon-lit streets that surround our hotel. It’s humid today so when it starts raining lightly, we couldn’t be happier and we out ourselves as tourists by being the only people on the street who decline to put up our umbrellas. My feet are really aching now (gladiator sandals in this city is not recommended - I’m an idiot) so we head back to the hotel for some AC and blog time.
After a few hours relaxation, we head out to find the Temple Street night market. It’s situated just behind Kowloon’s main thoroughfare, Nathan Road and it’s the same sort of market you find across Asia with lots of stalls lining the street selling everything from wood carvings, chopsticks, Chinese dolls, electronic goods and even guns. We get on with some serious haggling and Hardeep proves to be in her element and bags loads of bargains. I pick up a few wooden dolls for my nieces and not a lot else as I’m a terrible negotiator.
It’s really uncomfortably hot and we head off to find somewhere to have dinner, preferably with a side helping of air-conditioning. In a city renowned for eating out, you would think it would be easy to find somewhere to dine but in reality for us it proved to be the opposite. There is so much choice and a baffling amount of restaurants that we end up walking for ages rejecting places for ridiculous reasons just in case something better is round the corner. I blame the heat as i can no longer seem to use my brain properly and Hardeep takes a bit of a turn and comes over all faint. Our plans for a nice dinner are postponed and we head back to the hotel to eat some distinctly average food in the Marketplace, one of our hotel’s many eateries. At least it’s cool though! I fully intend to book somewhere for dinner tomorrow so we don’t have this palaver again as H and I nearly had our first argument of the trip and all because we can’t decide between eating Cantonese or Korean food!
Today we spent the whole day travelling between Auckland to Hong Kong via Sydney. Hardeep has a head cold so she’s spent the flight sniffing or sleeping and I’ve been watching endless romcoms. My head is now full of fluffy clouds, babies and chance meetings. Eugh!
We arrive in Hong Kong and wow is it humid! We go to get a shuttle bus to our hotel and it ends up taking ages to get loaded on, we finally set off an hour later on a very comfy air-conditioned coach. The first glimpse of the HK skyline is pretty awesome (not a word I use often), it’s all tall buildings lit up in neon and looks completely fake. We feel a bit like we’re in a theme park! A very foreign theme park full of shopping addicts and lunatic drivers (ok, so this is a massive generalisation based on my coach driver’s ‘skills’). 40 stomach-churning minutes later and we arrive at Hotel Icon, our home for the next three nights. It’s amazing. I’ll blog about it separately but the heated rooftop pool, multitude of eateries and our spa-like bathroom are making me seriously happy after weeks of hostel living.
Now I’m off to sleep for 12 hours in my large, comfy, feather-down pillow bedecked bed. Night!
Today we’re going to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to check out the mud pools and the geothermal sights that makes Rotorua (or Roto-Vegas!) famous. It’s a mad dash to pack up and leave as the Lady Knox geyser is due to blow at 10.15am sharp. We get to the park, pay our entrance fee (NZ$32.50) and head on over to the amphitheatre where the geyser is situated, all the while mulling over how they can predict the eruption time so accurately. Well, if only we’d known more about geothermal activity then we’d have guessed that all it takes to set a geyser off is a man with quick reflexes and a packet of (environmentally-friendly) surfactant. Simple really (!) It’s quite an impressive display and after a bit of bubbling and steaming, a jet of water streaks 15m into the sky! Cue lots of ooh’s, aah’s and camera flashes.
Next we’re go for a walk around the rest of the park, you really don’t need a map (although you do get issued an informative one with your ticket), you just need to follow your nose coz man, Rotorua is stinky! You sort of get used to the pong but then you might turn a corner and suddenly get assaulted all over again with a particularly pungent whiff. It takes a better woman than I not to make a “was that you?” style jape.
The park has three routes that you can take, depending what you want to see and how long you want to walk for. I did the whole walk and it took about an hour and twenty minutes. As its been raining a lot the past couple of days, the mud pools weren’t particularly active but there’s lots more to see as including thermal lakes and hot springs.
The landscape is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before with neon green lakes, steaming pools of fluorescent yellow sulphur and a long plateaux that looks a bit like a petrified river (perhaps that is actually what it is, i cant recall). A lot of it seems to be named ‘Devil’s…’ this and ‘Hell’s…’ that, which further illustrates my earlier point about New Zealand’s apparent fondness for the macabre!
The weather is a definite improvement on the past couple of days, which bodes well as our afternoon involves going to Matamata to take a tour of the farm, which doubles as Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings movies. My inner geek is VERY excited. The tour costs NZ$66 and includes a guided walk around the film set, which has recently been given a refresh as they were filming The Hobbit here a couple of months ago. It’s great fun, wandering around, hearing the guide’s stories about the movie and seeing the grassy hillside hobbit homes for myself. The detail is amazing, with beautiful painted postboxes, lacy curtains and rowboat oars propped up outside Samwise Gamgee’s front door. We even get a peek at the new buildings they’ve erected for the forthcoming movie! Alas, my earlier joy about the weather improving proved to be short-lived but the teeming rain didn’t stop us enjoying the afternoon. Even Claire, who wanted to stay in the car and read a book, had a good time. I would definitely recommend this, even if you only have a passing interest in LOTR as the farmland itself is very pretty.
We’re all a little damp and more than a little tired so we head back to Auckland and spend my last night in NZ eating dumplings and watching The Fellowship of the Ring whilst exclaiming, “I’ve been there!” Hardeep is staying over with the Malpas’ tonight too as we have an early flight to Hong Kong in the morning. I’m truly gutted to be leaving New Zealand, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen and I’ve felt so at home here. I’m also really going to miss my friends and the outdoor lifestyle that I’ve come to enjoy during these past couple of weeks. I’ll be back for sure!
Road trip! We’re all going to Rotorua today, which is an area of New Zealand famous for its geothermal activity. It’s just over a three hour drive so we stop for lunch in Tirau at The Cabbage Tree Cafe. Don’t bother eating here, the place looks pretty and the food appears to be fresh and mouthwatering but they served me a chicken and spinach tart that had actually been microwaved - bland is not the word. Tirau itself is a prime example of the many small townships I’ve passed through on previous drives in the South Island. There’s a few buildings (mostly cafes, tourist centres and grocery shops) built along the sides of the highway, however the iSITE is situated in the head of a massive corrugated iron Collie dog and next door is a matching sheep - Milly and I were most amused.
We’re staying at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Rotorua, and have a self-contained unit with a kitchenette (not that we plan to use it). Would be a great little place to stay if you’re doing a self-catering holiday.
The weather is miserable so Claire and I decide to treat ourselves to a few hours at the Polynesian thermal spa (1000 Hinemoa Street), which is in Conde Nast’s top 10 natural spas list. There are four thermal pools at varying temperatures from 36’ - 42’C, all carved out of rock and surrounded by tropical plants, looking over Lake Rotorua. It’s pure bliss. Claire and I while away a few hours, lazily moving between pools and gossiping about life whilst our skin turns smooth. At one point it starts drizzling and one of my simple pleasures in life is to be in water whilst it rains (as long as said water is heated!) We get some detox smoothies and feel all virtuous as we make our way back to our rooms.
The rain really isn’t letting up so we grab our brollies and go for a damp promenade down Tutanekai Street, which is where most of the restaurants in the city seem to be based. After being tempting by lots of delicious smells, we settle on having dinner at Indian Star (1118 Tutanekai Street). The food turns out to be really good and despite a minor mix-up with our starters, we have a nice evening. A meal and beers for three plus a kids dinner cost NZ$108, which I thought was very reasonable.
I’m really shattered today (I think all this travelling is finally catching up with me) so I get a super early night and even beat Milly to bed. Just.