Monday, 26 March 2018

Philippines- pleasantly surprising!

We left New Zealand and had to go through China to fly to Cebu. We thought we would have enough time to visit China for the day but our airline thought 12 hours wasn't enough time to go into the city and back again so we ended up watching a lot of Netflixs in Chongdong airport. This was also Stacey's first experience in Asia and was met by the most terrifying security people I have ever encountered.

Anyway, we finally made it to Cebu city in the evening so was just time to check in and go to bed.
The next day was my birthday and to start the day we went to the Dessert factory and had blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

We then walked through the really busy streets full of interesting things to look at and found our way to the oldest church in the Philippines, The Basilica del Santo Nino. It was massive and there was a mass on so it was packed.

Outside was the Magellan's Cross which symbolises the place where the first catholic sermon took place.

Then we went to Fort San Pedro. This was the old fort and most of it still remained today. A lot of the architecture was quite spanish looking.

Cebu was very hot, very busy and full of traffic and people trying to sell you stuff, but being in the fort was quite peaceful.

Then it was time to get the ferry to Bohol. We had a mad rush to get the ferry as we had to wait in queue for a ticket only to find we still had to pay terminal fees and luggage fees and present our ticket to various people so we managed to get on 1 minute before departure. The ride was two hours and then we found a tricycle on the other side (a motorbike with seats on either side).

We arrived at our resort (living the backpacker dream). It had two pools and a nice restaurant etc. We walked to the beach which was very busy, full of cafes and restaurants and had dinner and drinks by the sea. I also had a coconut.

The next day we had booked a tour of Bohol. We didn't realise it was a private tour until a man turned up in a big air-conditioned car and we thought he was just taking us to the bus. But no...  it was ours for the whole day.

We started of at the Taiser sanctuary where we saw the world's smallest monkey. They were really cute but hate noise and light so we had to be very quiet around them.

After, we went to see the chocolate hills. They are thousands of big hills in the same shape and in season are brown so look like chocolate. These were amazing and went on for miles.

Then we went to a man-made forest built entirely by Boy scouts! I was really impressed with it being a Guide leader myself.

After we went to a wildlife sanctuary which was really upsetting as the animals were in really small cages with nothing but concrete cages. There were birds and cats and monkeys all caged up.

Then we went to the bamboo bridge which was terrifying as it was entirely made of bamboo and i had to walk across it... and back!

We then had lunch on board a floating river restaurant and met an older man from Essex who was in the Philippines meeting his new asian girlfriend for the first time (yep one of those). He was really nice though.

We then went to an old church and to the Blood Pact site (which was where the Spanish and Natives made peace) before going back to Panglea Island which was where we were staying.

We then went for dinner at the beach again.

The next day was horrific! We had booked a boat to take us to see whale sharks. We thought we were getting a luxury bus and boat but no.. A tricycle turned up to take us to the beach. There were 5 of us on it when it was designed for three. Then we got to the beach, which was beautiful at 5am and very calm with lots of boats in the water. We then had to wade out to a speed boat which had a hole in it and lots of people with heavy luggage. This took us to our boat. It then started to pour in rain and we sped through the sea in the rain and the waves crashing over us. By the end we were freezing and soaking wet. At the other side we had to get on a rowing boat and the man pulled us to shore with a rope. Then Stacey and I ended up on the back of a tricycle to the whaleshark place. We then ended up on very long thin canoes and luckily we didn't fall over. We did see whale sharks though, the biggest shark in the world. They were amazing and made up for the awful journey there and back. However, it was soooo wet we didn't take our phones or cameras out so never caught any pictures of them.

We then had to do the whole journey back with the added bonus of waiting for an hour on the boat for a family that didn't turn up. I felt like I was on the sea again every time I closed my eyes for the next two days.

The rain had cleared when we arrived back to Panglea so we went and sat on the beach. It was a lovely beach, then had a look at some souvenir shops and had dinner and drinks again before bed.


We then had to get our flight to Boracay which involved a 6am ferry ride complete with 10 cockerels (needless to say no peace for 2 hours). But we made it to Boracay.

We had to get a boat to the island and it was similar to Bohol island but the beach was a lot nicer. We spent the next two days looking at the shops in this really cool outdoor mall and wandering the bars and restaurants and also sunbathing and swimming on the beach.  They also had lots of performers singing at the cafes and fire dancers. We also met two guys and a girl from London and one was really cocky and after asking us to watch their things while they go paddleboarding proceeded to take the mick out of us for being two white and blending into the sand. I don't think he realised that we were actually quite tanned and he should have seen us before. He then started boasting about being rich and then they then left all their rubbish on the beach next to us and we had to clean it up. They weren't great people especially as we did them a favour.

Our trip back to the airport was again eventful when we had to wait an hour at the ferry terminal after getting up at 4am, for a school bus and then waiting 4 hours in the airport for our flight to Bali. Our flight was also delayed so when we got to Manila our connecting flight was in another terminal building and we had to wait for the shuttle bus. We waited an hour to find out we had to pay and we had no cash left. Then they told us that we could get a free transfer but we had to wait another hour for it. We had no choice but to wait and arrived in international just in time. Why do our flights never go right?

I liked the Philippines. I prefered Boracay to Bohol even though Bohol has more to do, but the beach in Boracay was beautiful. The people are friendly and do not pester you for things and we never got scammed once and it was very safe. It wasn't as touristy as other asian countries either with a bit more of a rustic feel.

Friday, 16 March 2018

New Zealand- Again surprisingly like the UK!

Christchurch- Construction City

We made it to christchurch... But our bags didn't. This was due to our connecting flight being late but they did come the next day.

Christchurch was cold. Like Scotland when it's cold. It was 6am and we were freezing so we found a nice coffee shop for breakfast. Then had a wander to another coffee shop and so on until things started to open. Eventually we went to the Art Gallery, which mostly had modern art and then went the the fantastic museum at the edge of the botanical gardens and near our hostel.

Christchurch had an earthquake a few years ago that flattened most of the city. You can see when wandering around how Christchurch used to look. There are a few really lovely wooden houses left and a few preserved streets. There are tram lines everywhere and big open spaces, but.... there is a massive amount of construction and most of it is creating new modern buildings which is taking away from the old town feel. Its not the prettiest city anymore unfortunately and at the moment most of it is under construction-understandably. I felt very sorry for Christchurch as after the earthquake it clearly isn't what is used to be, but there are a lot of interesting things within the city. For instance the locals have made shops and cafes out of big containers and there is a lot of street art which I think is much nicer then the Melbourne street art. There is also a lot of little things like bollards being made out of pigs etc to try to make the city a bit more unique.

It's also quite cheap coming from the UK as you can pretty much half every price and it makes shopping a lot more fun 😀.

The next day we went to the botanical gardens which were very pretty and had a beautiful river called the River Avon running though it which felt very like a little english village.

We then watched an army band play some music and they were really good, then visited a night market for some food.

The next day we went on a trip to Akora. This is a lovely french village down south and the scenery was fantastic. We went on a nature cruise here and saw Hector dolphins (which are the world's smallest dolphin), baby fur seals and a penguin! It was a great cruise and the scenery was stunning.

I loved Akora and liked Christchurch and I think when the construction is finished it will be great again, but there is not much to do at the moment unless you use the city as a base to explore Canterbury province.

Queenstown- AMAZING

We arrived in Queenstown in the most scenic flight ever, we flew through mountains! It was beautiful. The actual town is also really beautiful and if you like adventure then this is the place. Although it was pouring in rain, We went to our hostel-haka lodge and had to share a room this time with two other people- Matt and Garrett from Canada and USA. They were great and we went out on a night out with them to some of the bars in Queenstown.

The next day Stacey decided to do a skydive so I cam along for the ride. We were due to be there for 7am but when we arrived they had cancelled due to the wind. So we came back at 9am. We went on the bus to the remarkables and when we got there and suited up etc they cancelled it again! So we had to come back to Queenstown. We wandered around looking at the little souvenir shops:

and went up the gondola which had the most spectacular views,:

We then went for hot chocolate in Mrs Ferg cafe which was one of the best hot chocolates I had and we sat drinking them at the stone beach by the lake. The lake was beautiful in between the hills.

The next day was Milford sound and we had booked a tour. We had a four hour bus journey through some beautiful scenery, some of which features in Lord of the Rings, and made friends with two guys from England, Dan and John. They were a great laugh and we went on the cruise together. The Milford sound was amazing. There were dolphins and fur seals as well.

Then it was time to go back to Queenstown and we went out with the the two guys to this bar called cowboys which was basically an all american bar complete with buckaroo!

Queenstown was amazing and even though I didn't do the adventure things I still really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the scenery of Scotland.

Wellington- Party Central

We landed in Wellington in the afternoon and by the time we made our way to the hostel it was quite late so we opted for the cinema near us (which was only £5). The main town centre is host to lots of bars and restaurants mainly selling pizza and burgers. It was full of people partying on a wednesday night. No one had said it was party central but it felt a lot like a street in Magaluf!

The next day we went to the harbour and had breakfast. It felt a lot like being on the docks and they had used containers as shops which was interesting. We then went to the Te Papa Museum and it was fantastic. we spent most of the day there. It was all about New Zealand, it was a great museum and free!

Then we went to the Museum of Wellington to learn all about Wellington. It was housed in a lovely old building. After, we wandered the streets looking at the shops. Then went for dinner.

The next day we went to the cable car and on to Zealandia which is a conservation area housing loads of birdlife. We were able to spot most of the birds on the list. It was a beautiful area on the outskirts of Wellington with a river and there were shags, parrots and different robins etc. There is also the kiwi but it only comes out at night. My camera broke taking a picture of a bird!

We then were given a lift back to the botanic gardens and wandered through them. They were quite hilly and it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the city.

We walked to the houses of parliament building and to the Beehive (called that cause it looks like a honeycomb apparently)

Then strolled along the waterfront and had dinner. We were then approached by two guys who offered us a drink and we sat with them chatting at the waterfront. They were interesting guys but a bit drunk 😊.

The final day was spent at the art gallery which was awful. Full of modern art that made no sense. Then I bought a new camera (thanks for the birthday present mum) and we went for dessert at a cafe. We walked up cuba street which was a bit of an eclectic street with some interesting cafes and normal shops. We then sat at the man made beach looking at the harbour which was very pretty.

We were also given a gym pass so went tot the gym in an attempt to be healthy!

I'm not sure I liked Wellington as a city. I loved the museum and Zealandia but I thought the city itself wasn't very pretty. The centre was a lot like being in a party town (which is great if your 18) but not when you are trying to find things to do. I think the surrounds of Wellington would be really pretty though.

Auckland- Hobbiton

There was a transport strike when we arrived at Auckland so it took us 3 hours to get to our Air B&B in Auckland. When we did we were greeted by an interesting lady. She was older and very bossy and quite particular about everything. We thought it was hilarious. She had a lovely wee dog too who kept trying to escape and succeeded! We arrived quite late so just went to dinner and then came back but the next day we went to pick up our car for the Bay of Islands.

We drove 4 hours to the Bay of islands and the scenery was lovely. The actual wee villages next to the Bay of Islands were lovely too and we took a ferry across to Russells and had fish and chips.

The Bay was beautiful with massive Islands in the distance, it almost felt like I was back in Halong Bay.

We also had the car for the next day so we went to Hobbiton! It was a two hour tour and this was great if you like the Hobbit as it was the film set and a village with lots of hobbit houses and really detailed scenery with Gardens and the houses etc.

We then had to give the car up so the next day we went into Auckland. It's really expensive to do things in Auckland like museums etc. if your not a local as international people are charged $25 each time so we walked to the docks and had coffee at the harbour.

There is a boat race coming up so it was full of boats. We then walked to the Domain Gardens and the Winter Gardens. There are a lot of parks in Auckland. We also did the Albert Park too. Then went to the dessert shop Miann which was recommended to me by my New zealand friend Penni. After, we wandered round the shops before going home for dinner. Then the dog escaped and we spent the next hour looking for it!

On our last day it poured in rain so we went to another park and got soaked but saw loads of birdlife then it was time to get the plane for our overnight flight.

I loved the scenery in New Zealand but not really the cities, there wasn't anything special about them. If coming I would recommend avoiding the cities and going round the villages and natural beauty etc as this is the best thing about New zealand!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Tasmania- Surprisingly like the UK

I waited for my friend Stacey in the airport in Melbourne only to find out that her plane was late and she had missed check-in by 2 minutes! I boarded my flight worried that I wouldn't be able to get the hire car at the other side as it was in Stacey's name and that she might not join me until the next day. However, at Hobart I got a text saying she had managed to get on another fight that evening as it was delayed as well and she would be with me at 10pm. So I waited in the airport until she arrived. We then picked up our hire car and went to our hostel. It was quite nice and very boutique. We shared with two other girls. One was really noisy in the morning getting up but the other girl Kaitlyn was really nice.

Our first day in Hobart and we wandered round the harbour:

Then we went into town to find breakfast. Eventually we found a cafe back where we started at the harbour. After we went to the museum and art gallery and saw an exhibition on Tasmanian devils.

We then explored Hobart a bit more and walked to the botanical gardens which were very nice.

We then walked back into town to pick up Stacey's travel money and explored the harbour a bit more before doing some food shopping and going back to our hostel for dinner. After which we walked round Salamander street which was mainly pubs and restaurants.

The next day we were woken by a Spanish girl who decided to switch her light on and wake everyone up at 6pm so that was us all awake😒. After getting ready we set off for our day trip to Port Arthur.

We came across some lookouts along the way and a lavender farm:

But the best thing was Port Arthur's Historical Site. This was the first sight that was used as a jail and it had lots of houses and a hospital and church etc that you could go in and see what it was like 200 years ago. A walking tour was also included along with a boat ride around the harbour. It was so windy and it felt like a Scottish summer! This was my favourite bit and is highly recommended.

We then drove up to Swansea for the night. Once we arrived everything shut at 8pm on a friday night so couldn't find anywhere decent for dinner. The manager of our hostel was so rude and when I asked for a hairdryer he replied the hand dryers can be turned up to be used as a hairdryer and he wasn't even joking! I didn't like Swansea!

However, we were there to go on our 5 hour hike round Freycinet National Park. After stopping off at Kate's berry farm and having a lovely scone and jam, we started to hike round the park. It was a tough walk but really enjoyable and we saw a wallaby.

We say the Wineglass bay lookout, which was breaktaking:

Then we walked to wineglass bay. This was like being in a tropical paradise as the water was so blue and the sand really white and we saw dolphins:

We then walked through bush to arrive at the hazzards. These were a bit more rugged but a lot quieter:

Lastly we walked through rugged cliffs back to the car park and saw a snake and lovely views of Tasmania coastline.

After our long day walking we thought we deserved fish'n'chips and so drove to our next spot, Bicheno and had a lovely fish supper. The hostel was nice too and had some nice views of Bicheno.

The next day we drove to the bay of fires. Although it was nice coastline it was just a bunch of rocks with red stuff on it. We weren't that impressed.

But the coast was nice and we stopped off at a nice cheese factory along the way. Even though our sat nav got us lost. The scenery in the north of Tasmania is very green and reminded us of the UK. We then made our way to Launceston for the night.

Our hotel was ok in Launceston, nothing special, but there were a lot of older people staying there. In Launceston we walked to the art gallery which had an interesting exhibition about the Aboriginal Tasmanians and how Tasmania came to be seperate from Australia 14 thousand years ago.

We then went on a nice walk to the gorge which was beautiful and reminded me of switzerland. We even saw a seal:

After we went on a tasting trail and had lunch in the christmas raspberry farm and I had a Raspberry latte.

Then it was on to the cheese factory and the chocolate factory where we stuffed our faces with free chocolates! Finally we made our way through the beautiful landscape to our wilderness lodge, which was the best part of our trip!

The wilderness lodge were a few cabins in the middle of nowhere with amazing scenery and loads of wildlife.

We were easily the youngest there and the owner was surprised when we turned up wandering why we were here.-too see wildlife! He was a nice old man though and we also made friends with the elderly couple next door to us who has a daughter in Edinburgh.

The cabin was lovely and had a real log fire which we lit. We were taken out to a cave to see glow worms and cave spiders (which were massive). The glow worms were really pretty, especially reflecting of the water. After dark we sat and watched the various wildlife from our window. We saw loads of tasmanian wallabies:

Spotted Qualls:

and bush-tailed possums:

and a feral cat but sadly no Tasmanian Devils (we saw loads dead at the side of the road though).

The next day we set off for Cradle Mountain and went for a two our walk round Dove Lake. This was a beautiful walk although a little hilly:

Then we went back to the lodge for our platypus tour. We did manage to see platypus but it was quite dark.

Then it was back to spotting wildlife in the evening. Again no devils.

On our final day we said goodbye to our wee log cabin in the woods and drove back to Hobart (we couldn't resist another trip to the chocolate factory) and on to our next adventure-New Zealand!

I really liked Tasmania, especially our log cabin! It reminded me a lot like the highlands of Scotland and everyone was really friendly and helpful. If your in Australia I would recommend a side trip to Tassie!