Singapore

After spending most of the day travelling from Kuala Lumpur, I’ve made it to Singapore. the first thing I noticed stepping off of the train was the hugeee skyscrapers around me.

After checking into my hostel, I walked down to Chinatown for some dinner and a look around. I noticed this cool building along the way…

I thought Chinatown here was very similar to the one in Kuala Lumpur, just with both red and orange lanterns and prettier building around it. I stopped off at a Michelin Star Hawker restaurant for dinner… I’m sure it’s the only Michelin star place where you get plastic knives and forks and it costs less than S$5! It didn’t look too special, but the roasted pork with noodles tasted pretty good!

Chinatown

Michelin star food

I then took a quick stop at the Buddha Tooth Relic, which apparently holds a tooth of the Buddha. An early night is in in order, so I called it a day at this.

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Buddha tooth relic

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Buddha tooth relic

Day 2

I stopped off at orchard road which has a billion shops and malls along it… I thought there were some swanky malls but was unable to find them, so headed on a long sweaty walk to the botanical gardens. This was nominated as a World Heritage garden, so of course it was nice and huge!

In the evening I checked out the waterfront, where there was a special light exhibition on. The waterfront provided an excellent view of the illuminated city and the best backdrop for the light and water show.

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I then headed through Marina Sands mall, which was the mall I wanted to find earlier in the day with an indoor canal! And headed through to the Sky Trees, which put on another light display.

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To say these looked like they belonged in space is an understatement.

On the way back, I got a better look at the Marina Sands building… I still can’t figure out how they got the ship up there!

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Day 3

I started my day by re-visiting everything I’d seen the night before, to see it all in the light…. in my opinion, the waterfront is more beautiful in the day. I also went to the Science and art museum which seemed a bit of a fad, maybe best left to families (or just go down the slide like I did).

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Then back the the Sky Trees, which were just as amazing in the light as in the dark!

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Next was onto Little India, full of colourful markets and if the humidity isn’t enough for you, plenty of curry (don’t head too deep into the market place, you’ll pass the raw stinky meat!).


Day 4

I started my day off by wandering around a bit more of the waterfront, and saw the national symbol, the Merlion! Then I headed around the older buildings between dipping into shopping malls for airconditioning.


I also discovered this rooftop view for free, so I didn’t need to check out the Marina Sands hotel.


In the eve, I packed up and prepared myself to say goodbye to this strange, spacey, but beautiful city.

Kuala Lumpur (2 Days)

Day 1

Arrived at around 4 am into KLIA2 and slowly made my way to use my parent’s hotel room for the morning to get a bit of a nap. I noticed straight away that I had my guard up, getting worried about the guy asking me if I needed a taxi… (I’ve definitely made myself paranoid from reading about scams online). I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before making my way into the centre of KL to check into my own hostel. I”splashed out” (£17 a night) on a double room to myself. I spent the early afternoon checking out Bukit Bintang area which is filled with huge, air conditioned shopping malls.

After this, I tried to set off on foot to the KL Tower and its revolving restaurant, this failed due to the humid heat pretty quickly and I took cover in a coffee shop and booked my first ever Uber for the remaining 15 minute walk to the tower (cost about £1!!).

I made it up the tower and took the worst selfie, covered in sweat and looking like I was about to fall asleep on the spot.

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Ignore me… look at the twin towers in the background

When I was shown my seat in the revolving restaurant, I asked to move to a better view… the waiter said “Mam, it’s revolving, see?”… I shouldn’t be left alone when hot and jet lagged! The food was pretty average on the buffet, but the views were good!.

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View from the  Manera Tower

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view from the Manera Tower

When I got downstairs, it was pouring it down with a huge thunderstorm in quick persuit… I thought the haze over the city was smog, not a thunderstorm, when I was in the restaurant. Time for another Uber! I was going to head back to the hostel, but Mr. Uber man informed me that the central Market was in fact undercover, so we re-routed and I checked this out and the Chinese Market out for a couple of hours “Mam it’s rainy season, there are no tourists, you are my no.1 customer, I give you discount” and this sort of thing was a common phrase  (I’m pretty sure it’s not even rainy season). I also tried out my bartering skills… on some genie pants, only knocked off 7 MYR (~£1.40) from 35 MYR, so I have some way to go. As I was shattered and unable to find wifi for an Uber, I got a taxi back from the side of the road, Mr Taxi Man said: “I’ll make it 20MYR as I’m getting a coffee”, I said: “15 MYR”, he came back with a quick “done”, I know I’d been fooled and probably got charged double an Uber… but in the grand scheme of things £1.50 isn’t going to break the bank!

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Chinatown

Day 2

I started the morning off with free brekkie in the hostel, where I met some German guys who were also planning on heading to the Batu Caves. So off we went!

We were welcomed by hoards of monkeys and plenty of tourist shops. Behind the giant golden Hindu statue are 272 steps (not as bad as you think!), which take you up to the caves. The site is a Hindu temple, however it’s also a big tourist place to visit.The caves are huge, and boiling again. They open up at the top, which allows plant life to flourish.

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Entrance to the Batu Caves

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Batu caves

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Batu Caves

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Temple within Batu Caves

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Monkey Selfie

 

We then went over to the Dark caves (part way down the stairs) which is a conservation site, so we paid for a 1 hour guided tour. The tour guide pointed out rock features and endemic wildlife along the way (a long legged millipede and a cricket.) A stray dog also decided to join us for the tour.

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Dark Caves

We then stopped for a late lunch in Chinatown before I headed to the Petronas towers. Unfortunately the skywalk was sold out for the evening. So I strolled around the park and waited till dusk when the fountains were switched on and the towers were lit up! It would probably be best to wait until it was pitch black, but jet lag got the better of me.

 

Petronas towers

Petronas towers

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is a complete bird paradise, perfect for the established bird nut and those with a new interest in it (like me!). I spent 2 days/3 nights on the island and loved it with all of its’ walks, bird life and super friendly people.

I took the 5pm ferry from Bluff to Stewart. On the way over I spotted my first bird, the fine feathered, Royal Albatross with its huge wingspan flying after the boat. I met some other backpackers on the boat and headed over to my accommodation at Bunkers Backpackers for the first of 3 nights where we were warmly welcomed for a hot dog and to watch the first rugby match of the season at the local (hello $6 pints and $10 jugs!). At around 10.30pm I left to go kiwi hunting (slightly tipsily) with a new friend up the fuchsia track and around the rugby field (only use red lights as the white scare of the kiwi… Feel free to share this with people on the field with their super bright white lights!). Unfortunately we had no luck.

 

The approach to Stewart Island

 

The next morning looked a little grey, so I took a walk to Wohlers memorial via the Golden Bay track. I saw so many birds on this walk: wood pigeons, fan tails, tuis, albatross, wood pigeons… Maybe a few others! There were also views and stops along plenty of the golden sand beaches (Deep Bay,  Ringaringa beach and Golden Bay) and some of the surrounding islands.

 

 

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The well-marked Golden Bay track

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View from just beyond Wohler’s Memorial

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Near Wohler’s Memorial

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Fantail

In the afternoon I took a walk to Ryan’s Creek. This wasn’t particularly my favourite walk as it was all in the woods with minimal views, but plenty of ferns!

 

 

That evening I went to the famous fish and chip shop, after having someone else’s chips, I wasn’t so hungry for a full meal, so had a delicious (and huge) burger which was more than enough. After,  I went back to the pub with a group from the Backpackers where there was some rugby on in the background.

The next morning I woke up bright and early to try for some more kiwi hunting at the crack of dawn along the same route… Again we had no luck. We then took the 9 am ferry to Ulva Island and I was given a leafy boarding pass. The trip to Ulva was recommended by everyone I had spoken to about Stewart Island. Ulva is free from pests (rats, stoats and weasels) due to some pretty huge eradication measures in the past. This means it’s the perfect place to turn into a bird haven. As you arrive into Post Office Bay you are welcomed by a golden beach. I’d recommend buying a self guided leaflet for $2 which tells you all about the island at selected markers and the local wildlife. Here we saw Robyn’s, Saddlebacks, Wekas, parakeets… It’s easy to spend 3-4 hours here, longer if the sun is out. 

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Post Office Bay

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Mr. Robin

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Wrapped up on a beach

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Being attacked by a Robin

In the afternoon I took a walk out to Ackers Point which offers a walk past some pretty bays, crystal blue water and through the bush. Again here I saw Petrols and loads of Albatrosses!

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Hugggee Albatross

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Pretty bay

That evening we went to the pub quiz where I switched on my Donald Trump impression to try and gain some extra point for for my team. We won the pub quiz (without help from my impression) and a $50 bar tab which we decided to drink! After we went for another drunken kiwi hunt, and again had no luck but found a rare Morepork owl!

Stewart is also a great place to take the time to look up at the stars and spot the Milky Way!

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Bye Stewart Island

Chinese New Year – Wellington

I went to the night markets in Wellington the day before Chinese New Year. The city put on a show… which was, lets say, interesting. There were some Chinese drummers who opened the festivities. I was imagining the drummers from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics to appear, to bring a bit of energy, what turned up was a group of their grandmothers, who definitely didn’t bring the energy on their outing from their retirement home. After their first song, they did what they did best and stopped for a photo opportunity. The photo op lasted about 5 minutes, so the presenter obviously thought they were done and started introducing the next act… the dance troupe of grandmas decided they weren’t finished, and told her so, whilst still seizing the opportunity to take some more photos, this went on until they needed to return back to the retirement village for a nap.

Chinese drummers

Chinese drummers

Another act was a Chinese jazz band, where again, the Chinese singing element appeared to be lacking… talent (I’m sure I can sing”when your smiling” better than she could, and I sound like a strangled cat) and let down the pretty decent band component of the act.

Chinese jazz band

The rest of my evening was made up by the great food on the night markets and the entertainment in the street (which had no Chinese New Year influence at all). The night market comprised of food stalls with food from all over the world,so I tried some Thai and Chinese (which made up for some of the poor entertainment) food.

As I was heading to my hostel, I stumbled across loads of different performers on the street, my favourites were the salsa dancing, and the swing dance with a full brass band…If I were here longer I would definitely have taken some swing dance lessons, as everyone looked like they were having a great time!

Salsa time!

White Island

From Whakatane (apparently the sunniest place in New Zealand) we went on a tour and took a boat over to White Island. White Island is an active volcano located 50km off the coast. The only way to get there is via helicopter or boat. It has previously hosted a sulphur mine, but due the risks i.e. lahars, this has been shut down multiple times, and is now used for  tourism.

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We set off on a beautiful clear day, with relatively calm sea conditions (though I still looked drunk when wandering around the boar). Apparently in the Summer months you have the chance of spotting whales and dolphins.You can see the island from miles away with large amounts of steam coming out as you approach. As you get closer, it looks as though a side has collapsed and you get your first glimpse into the volcano.

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DSCF9368.JPGOnce you get to the island, you are equipped with helmets and breathing masks which boy did we need!  We were dropped off near some remnants of one of the old mining buildings, given a safety briefing, wiped out boots to make sure we weren’t bringing any funny duddies onto the island then took a 1.5 hour guided tour around the island.

The island was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, barren, steaming and striking (and stinking). With ridiculously unique features everywhere you turned.

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We saw sulphur chimneys

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and even got to look down into the crater.

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We also tasted the water from 2 sources… top tip, only dip your finger in… you don’t want to try anymore than that!

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We also had a bit of time to check out the old buildings before we left.

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As we boarded the boat, a couple of people went for a swim in the freezing sea before we set back off to the mainland taking in our final sights of the island.

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Great Taste Trail

The Great Taste Trail is a cycle route which runs from Nelson the Kaiteriteri and loops back through to Nelson. I spent 2 days cycling from Richmond (I was lazy and got the bus there from Nelson as I knew it wasn’t the most attractive part of the trip) up to Kaiteriteri. Day 1 I cycled from Richmond to Motueka… I didn’t get off to a too good start, the tide was very high which flooded the subway I had to cycle through, I underestimated it’s depth, even after been warned by another cyclist and my feet were wet in the first few minutes… luckily I also had a pair of flip flops with me…so cycled the rest of the day (40kms) in these. I should’ve expected the bruises on my feet the next day…

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Soaked in the first 5 minutes

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Making my way to Rabbit Island

I cycled through to Rabbit Island, which I had visited before and stayed here for a hour on the beach with my book before taking the ferry. The ferry glided across the fast flowing estuary with ease and took us over to the buzzing Maupua. I treated myself to a “real fruit” ice cream (Ice cream blended with some berries) before heading on through the small town.

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Rabbit Island

 

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Mapua Ferry

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Converted storehouses in Mapua

Along the way there were some varied views.

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A more boggy area

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“Weather stone”… unfortunately the stone had gone missing

And some climbs… one which I decided to hop off and cheat by walking.

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Trying to grin at the top of an uphill cycle!

I then stopped off at the quirky Jester House which had a billion things to do for the kids from dress up, to play stuff  and even to feed the eels… their coffee was pretty good too.

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Jester House- These eels were more friendly looking than the real thing

After this I met another friendly American cyclist and finished the journey (even a few climbs) for the evening to Motueka. That evening my joints were achey so tried to soothe them in the jacuzzi at the hostel… unfortunately the bubbles didn’t work so it felt like a communal bath. We then went to dinner at the local Sprig and Fern and had a few to many and stayed until closing. Then walked back via the beach.

The next morning, feeling a little bit worse for wear we headed on to Kaiteriteri. This was my favourite part of the cycle which took you through a mountain bike park…as a complete novice, the park was well designed, taking you slowly uphill without killing you then spits you out on the golden beaches of Kaiteriteri.

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Day 2

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Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Trail

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Kaiteriteri beach

 

Wellington and River Valley

After taking the ferry back we spent the day in Wellington checking out the Galapoli exhibit in Ta Papa which was pretty awesome. The to scale life size figures were ridiculously detailed down to arm hairs.

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We then headed down to River Valley and were warmly welcomed by the complete ruralness of the place, and the incredibly friendly staff. Next up we were greeted by a roast… I’m sure roasts when you’re travelling become the best, and most memorable meals you have…. and this one was great! To then help our food down we washed it down with a couple of drinks and a trip to the jacuzzi…unfortunately it wasn’t particularly warm, so only had a short stay in there whilst drinking our wine.

The next morning we woke up bright and early for our rafting. We were about to raft the Rangiteiki river which included some Grade V rapids, the only place to do this grade in New Zealand.This fact terrified me, but once we were put in the capable hands of our Canadian Raft Guide, I felt pretty at ease as he took us down the rapids! My raft had no lost people as we floated down the river, raced down the rapids and were flung around. My face in photos looked like I hated this experience…but trust me, it was great fun!

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