Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 23 - January 29-30, 2010

This morning I flew from Wellington to Sydney and noticed I had a 10 hour layover. Can I just say I LOVE Sydney and would move here tomorrow if I could. I will seriously be thinking about coming back here. It is so beautiful and has a good vibe to it. I did not want to leave.

I took the ferry over to Manly Wharf. I went for a walk on the beautiful Manly Beach and then relaxed on the beach and went in the water for a little bit. After my nice walk, I went and got a few souvineers for everyone and then took the ferry back to the city to go explore.

I went over to the Rocks area, famous area of Syndey with a bunch of little, old pubs behind the Opera House. I decided to try some unique food to Australia, so I tried the Kangaroo pizza. They had emus and other rare animals too, but wanted to try the Kangaroo. It was really good and kind of tasted like chicken.

After lunch, I only had a few hours left and walked over to the Opera House. I took a bunch of pics as it is so beautiful! I wish I could see it at night. I didn't have time for a tour so I just walked around. I also watched all of the people climbing the famous Harbour Bridge. The next time I come back, I definitely want to do the climb, looks hard but like so much fun. You can see the climbers in a couple of the pics.

After the Opera House, it was time to take the train back to the airport. I flew from Sydney to Singapore. Stayed the night at the Singapore airport and then went to Tokyo, Japan, and finally arrived back in Portland on Saturday morning. I will have about 60 hours of January 30, 2010, hope it is a good day! This is the last posting of this blog! Thanks for following our adventures!

Here are my Sydney pics!

Day 20-22 - January 26-28, 2010

My last three days in Wellington were spent mostly at the Ministry of Education. I interviewed several people from the Ministry of Education as well as their Correspondence school. I am learning a lot for my dissertation which is great.

I have been exhausted at the end of each of these days so pretty much had dinner at a different restaurant each night and a couple of nights I went back to the concerts at the Botanic Gardens.

The weather has been really nice, so it is nice to take a walk and explore more of the city after dinner.

On my last night here, I went to have dinner down on the Queen's Quay at the harbour. I had a delicious dinner and drinks and met up with a few backpacker's who were in town that asked me if I wanted to go to the ACDC concert with them. We went down to the harbor and saw a huge sting ray at the edge (see pics) and then walked over to the concert.

I had a great time, was never a huge ACDC fan, but they put on a great concert. This was the last day in Wellington and I have to get up and go to the airport at 4am! :( See pics of final day below (we couldn't take cameras into the concert so no pics of ACDC)! :(

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 19 - January 25, 2010

Today I got to venture out to wine country in Martinborough. I hopped on the commuter train at 9:30 this morning and took an hour long ride to Featherston. It is a small town that leads to the wineries in Martinborough. From there we had a 20 minute ride to the first winery.

The Martinborough area is famous for their Pinot Noir. I am not normally a big fan of red wine, but the ones we tasted today were so good. After the first winery, we went to lunch at the Village Cafe and took a little tour of the small town. There is not much here except cafes and vineyards. There are over 40 vineyards in Martinborough and the Wairarapa county. After a nice lunch, we went to the next winery.

A lot of the vineyards are one man shops. At the second one, we got to see how everything is done. One man runs the whole thing and we found out how much work actually goes into the delicious bottles of wine we drink! It was very interesting to learn about the process.

From there we were on to our next stop, which was not originally on the tour, but one of the ladies from Sydney who grew up in Wellington really wanted to go, so because we were a small group, Pamela, our guide stopped for an extra tasting. It was well worth it.

We stopped at two more wineries to round out the tour. Hokey Pokey ice cream is a must have for visitors to Wellington (it may be all of New Zealand), so we had to make a stop at the ice cream parlor to try it and it was yummy! However, ice cream and wine do not go well together.

At the end of the day, we stopped at a little cafe and shared a cheese platter to balance out our palates and then headed home. A little old lady, Jo, probably in her 90's was traveling from England and got a little tipsy. She had bought so many bottles of wine, she couldn't carry them, so I had to walk her back to her hotel to make sure she made it ok. She was pretty funny!

I had a great day, and here are the pics!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 18 - January 24, 2010

Today was a very fun day! I started off with another great breakfast from Neville at the B&B, then it was off to my Lord of the Rings tour. I have never seen any of the movies, but read the books a long time ago. It didn't matter though, we had a great time. There were only two of us girls on the tour, me and Suzanna from Austria who was a major fan of the movies.

Ruffel, was our guide and knows anything and everything about the movies being made. We saw some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (slide show 3) on earth. The weather started out crappy, but got much better and was beautiful by noon. I don't remember all of the places we saw and what they were in the movies, but it doesn't matter, enjoy the pics. We went to several parks and did a few hikes. In the middle of the tour, we went to the WETA Cave which is a mini museum of the WETA offices which do all of the costumes and special effects for Lord of the Rings and other movies, such as King Kong and Avatar, which were all made in New Zealand. Wellington is very proud of Peter Jackson (we drove by one of his many houses on the island) and they are proud of all of the movies that have been made here.

The next movie they are working on is the Hobbit. We got to see the studio they are building for this as well as a ship from King Kong.

At the end of the day, I went to dinner on the Queens Quay and then went to a summer festival at the Botanic Gardens with a band from Wellington who played Bollywood music. It was a lot of fun!

Here are 3 slideshows from my fun filled day!

Day 17 - January 23, 2010

I was hoping to go to the South Island on the ferry to Picton, a small town at the tip of the south island but the weather sucked so bad today. It poured and was so windy. So I decided to go see the last few things in Wellington I wasn't able to see yesterday.

I started at the National Archives to go see the equivalent of New Zealand's Constitution, but they are remodeling! :( Today is not starting off great yet!

So I went over to the "Beehive", and other parliament buildings for a tour instead. I had a great time and got to see the insides of the parliament and other government buildings. We weren't allowed to take pics so I don't have many pics from today, but you can see the outside of the buildings. I just missed Prince William by a day. He was in town Sunday - Tuesday and staying one block from where I am staying, at the Prime Minister's house. They built a new Supreme Court building and he opened it for the city!

After that I went to the Wellington Museum. I was soaked to the bone after walking from the parliament buildings. It was interesting to see how Wellington came about. There was also a really interesting exhibit on a horrible storm that knocked over a boat and killed 51 people back in the late 1960s because of 170 mph winds. It was a very interesting museum and I learned a lot today.

After the museum, I went to go by a coat. It is freezing and pouring rain and so windy today! I had some fish and chips for lunch (a traditional Wellington food) and pondered what to do next.

I have been to every museum and most of the stores are closed today and the weather sucks so I went and saw a Peter Jackson movie, The Lovely Bones, at the famous Empire Theatre. They have an 800 seat theatre (it is assigned seating). This is the theatre where they had the world premiere of this movie and the third Lord of the Rings movie. I will try to get a pic of the theatre tomorrow on my LOTR tour. The Lovely Bones is a great movie and it was a lot of fun to see it in the director's favorite theatre. It was quite the experience.

After the movie, I trekked back to my B&B to shower. I look and eel like a drowned rat! I went to a great Italian restaurant and then came back, did some work and went to bed.

Here are a couple of pics from the day, not too many from today!

Day 16 - January 22, 2010

I started this morning off with a couple of interviews and then finally had a chance to do some exploring.

Because I had no idea what I was doing, I decided to take a city and coast tour. I got a brief overview of pretty much every site in the city. We went to St. Paul's, the oldest church in Wellington, downtown and saw all the shops and different sites in the city. Then we went up to Mt. Victoria. It was pretty cloudy and the weather wasn't cooperating, so we didn't get the best views, but there are a few pics of the city from up there.

Along the tour, we saw Penguin Crossing signs, as penguins live along the coast and run across the streets. We didn't see any penguins, but I took a pic of the sign. After the coast and Mt. Victoria part of the tour, I had the driver drop me off downtown to go explore.

I went to the Te Papa museum, which shares the Maori (one of the main groups of people from New Zealand's) history!

After a long day of interviewing, working and exploring, I had a nice steak dinner and crashed pretty early! I am hoping to take the ferry to Picton on the South Island if the weather cooperates tomorrow!

Here are a few pics from the day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 15 - January 21, 2010

Haven't posted in a few days because I have been so busy. It took about a day to get from Singapore to Wellington, NZ. On my flight from Singapore to Sydney, I got to fly on the two story plane, which was pretty cool, never been on one of those before. I didn't have a window seat, so I couldn't take any pics of landing in Sydney or New Zealand but both were beautiful places. Maybe on the way home I will get a chance.

The next two days were pretty much spent at the Ministry of Education and in the bathroom. On our last day in Singapore, Declan got really sick with the flu and I think I got it from him. Kim had it the day before we left and Jeffrey and I both got it last night, it was not fun!

I feel much better today and had a great day of interviewing and meeting everyone at the Ministry of Education. My dissertation is off to a great start. One of the staff at the MOE just became a grandfather for the first time a few days ago and the e-Learning team through him a little congratulations party at work this afternoon. We had a great time, but it was very interesting that they are allowed to have alcohol at their work parties. They had wine, beer, and Baileys, and thought it was strange that in America we couldn't drink while we were at work! :)

Tonight at dinner, I planned out my weekend. I am going to take the ferry down to the south island and take a few tours. I am going to go on a Lord of the Rings tour too, even though I have never seen any of the movies, but it should be fun! I will try to keep this up to date with all of my adventures.

The Kiwis are great and New Zealand is beautiful, I don't know if I want to come home!

Here are a few pics of Wellington, I will take better ones this weekend!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 13 - January 19, 2010

This morning we started with a nice hike up Bukit Timah, the highest peak in Singapore. It is 163.8 M to the top. We saw a huge spider, some ants carrying an earthworm, and some cool birds and trees. Of course, we didn't see monkeys, because there is a curse on Ali who wants to see monkeys, so they are in hiding until she leaves.

For lunch, we took Kristy to a German Thai restaurant and did a little last minute shopping. Then we came home and finished packing up.

It is off to the airport and Kim is heading home and Ali is heading to New Zealand. Ali will continue to post pics and info about New Zealand over the next two weeks but it might not be on a regular basis! :) Good-bye SE Asia!

Day 12 - January 18, 2010

This morning we woke up and took a taxi to Johor, Malaysia. It was about a 10 minute taxi ride and about 20 minutes through the immigration stop. When we arrived, we walked through Johor to the Sultan Abu Bakar's palace. Along the way, we saw several abandoned houses, it is very rundown, similar to other boarder towns.

We also saw the courthouse, which we managed to stay out of and a TGI Fridays! :) We finally arrived at the palace and saw just how huge it was. The grounds cover a few city blocks. The Sultan had abandoned this house to build a new one, because he thought everything was too old. The palace is still used for different events throughout the year. It was also creepy that members of the royal family who pass, their bodies are placed on the Sultan's old bed for people to pay their respects before the person is buried.

You can see all of the pictures below, but we saw the living quarters, dining hall, where they hold ceremonies, and the sultan was an avid hunter, so we also saw his prize room along with jewelry, clothing, china, and several more things. One of the pics shows Kim sitting at one of the tables. She was a rebel and stepped over the rope, but the pic didn't turn out too well. She managed to stay out of jail though! :)

After the palace tour, we went to lunch at the New Hong Kong restaurant and had a fabulous Chinese meal! Then it was back to Singapore to see Lisa the neighbor's extraordinary fish tank and to start packing up our stuff.

This evening, we went to the Night Safari. We had some dinner and watched a great jungle dance show. We will get the video up on YouTube tomorrow for you. It was a lot of fun. Then we got to see several nocturnal animals. Our camera didn't work taking pictures in the dark with no flash, so we bought some postcard pics. Ali will see if she can scan them in the morning so you can see some of the cool animals we got to see. It is sad, as many of them are going extinct as more and more rain forests are cut down.

After the safari, we came home and went to bed. Only one more day in Singapore. Jeffrey, Kristy, Declan, Keira, Nancy, and Lena have been wonderful hosts and tour guides, we are going to miss them!

Here are our pics and videos from the day!