Monthly Archives: October 2013

A brief stopover in Singapore and the end is nigh . . .

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

The last part of our amazing year away had come – a stopover in Singapore on the way back to the UK from New Zealand. For anyone who is a regular reader of my blog you will know both myself and my husband, John, have had THE most incredible year in New Zealand. We have also been lucky enough to spend a month in Australia (travelling the Great Ocean Road, visiting amazing Tasmania (in particular the incredible Cradle Mountain) and spending time with my sister in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and two weeks on the stunningly beautiful island of Aitutaki deep in the South Pacific Ocean.

August 27th – the date had arrive for us to leave our beloved New Zealand. We departed from Christchurch (such a lovely airport) and flew with Singapore Airlines to Singapore. The flight passed pretty quickly and we were soon in Singapore. Stepping off the plane the strong heat and humidity hit! We had visited Hong Kong before so knew what to expect, but it still gives you a good shock! We had arranged for a car to collect us from the airport and take us to our lovely hotel (the luxurious Pan Pacific – we had splashed out). On checking in we were given an upgrade to a room with a view of the city and water – it was lovely.

The Flyer

The Flyer

We spent the next few days recovering from a little bit of jet lag and exploring the wonderful city state of Singapore. We were dazzled by the high rise buildings and super-modern malls. We spent time at the National Museum of Singapore, and took a trip on the Singapore Flyer for amazing views of the city. We also spent a couple of hours (in the crazy heat!) at a wonderful hidden gem of a place called Haw Par Valley. I had received a recommendation from a friend of the family that I should visit this place – so we took the MRT (for those who have visited London, think uncrowded/clean/cold-air-filled version of the tube!) on a fairly long journey from Promenade station (the nearest to our hotel) to the station at Haw Par Villa.

The amazing Haw Par Villa!

The amazing Haw Par Villa!

On arriving we knew we were in for something special as the decoration that filled the entrance was amazing! The ‘Your Singapore’ website says it is “like no other place in the world” and they aren’t wrong! The whole place is adorned with rather ageing statues and dioramas telling the stories of various Chinese legends and folklore. It is classified as a ‘historical’ theme park – and in my opinion has much charm!! Loads of the statues were just so random – such as the pictured crazy rat with a gun!

Our favourite part – and not for the fainthearted – was called the ‘Ten courts of hell’ which tells the stories of various scenes of punishment and reincarnation. The statues were pretty graphic and have been known to scare young children – and as such I will not be posting them here – but think gruesome statues depicting scenes such as being sliced in half and killed on a bed of nails (just to name a few!). If you really wish to see photos then take a look here as this website documents it well. It was actually a fascinating place! Soon the heat became too much for us, and after exploring as much of the park as we could, we left. Definitely an off-the-beaten track gem as we only saw a couple of other people in the whole park whilst we were there.

In Singapore Pizza Hut

In Singapore Pizza Hut

We also enjoyed a couple of trips to good old Pizza Hut (yes a favourite of mine) – which tasted pretty nice! We also discovered we could get to the restaurants and mall without leaving our hotel – we had a special entrance and such avoided the crazy heat which was a real plus!

August 30th was soon upon us and the time had arrived for us to leave Singapore and fly back to the UK. We took a taxi from our wonderful hotel to the airport, and after a slight blip from Singapore Airlines (try arriving early to check in and being told our flight was full and we were going to be put on one over 12 hours later!! I wasn’t having any of it though and in true ‘Kinnie spirit’ I soon had them telling us we could fly on our original flight and printing our boarding passes 🙂 ) we were all checked in and waiting at the airport. We knew my parents would be meeting us the other side at Heathrow and we were really looking forward to seeing them as had missed them lots.

As we sat waiting to depart our minds took us back to our truly incredible year. We had seen and done so much more than we had ever dreamed off – and had so many amazing experiences. It really had been the most amazing New Zealand adventure! As I said on our last post our year away has really changed us, and we plan to take this with us on onwards in our journey through life – wherever it may take us.

What is next? Who knows, but I am excited to find out!

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One last New Zealand road trip

Sunday 25th August – Tuesday 27th August: Queenstown to Mount Cook to Christchurch

So our final road trip in New Zealand was upon us. 600km, 48 hours – us and a free Toyota Camry!!

It has taken me a while to write my last post about our time in New Zealand – it is now well over a month since we took our final road trip. I think I partly feel that once I write this our amazing New Zealand adventure is over – that writing this closes that chapter on our life. However, I want to try and feel like the memories and legacy from this trip will live on in everything we do and in how we live our lives.

Our Camry

Our Camry

As my last post explained, we sadly left Queenstown on the Sunday morning, but what it didn’t mention is where we were headed next and how! During our time in Queenstown we always knew our next step was going to be that we flew to Christchurch before staying for a couple of days and flying out of there on the Tuesday. Now despite feeling like we should see Christchurch and spend time there, all we really wanted to do was spent time in our favourite place in New Zealand before flying out – Mount Cook. So we decided to make a change – we decided instead to cancel our flight (we had got an incredibly cheap deal via grabaseat and paid months ago so could afford to let this go) and hire a car instead and drive ourselves from Queesntown via Mount Cook to Christchurch airport.

We love Mount Cook

We love Mount Cook

Having spent a year in New Zealand we knew this was one of our favourite and most scenic drives, and also after three previous visits to Mount Cook that we couldn’t leave without saying one final goodbye. I gave Thrifty in Queenstown a call (who we had hired a couple of cars with previous and had been great) and discovered that could offer us a relocation (or a ‘relo’ as they put it!) for FREE! They needed a car taking from Queesntown to Christchurch airport within 48 hours and all we had to do was pay for petrol 🙂 The best bit was what car it was – a lovely amazing Toyota Camry! It was huge, and posh and completely wonderful! We never had so many comments on our journey about what a great car it was – and all for free! Thank you Thrifty.

So despite leaving Queenstown with a heavy heart back on that Sunday, we knew we still had one last road trip and one last adventure to come. Being in the Camry was a real dream, and John said it was so comfortable to drive it didn’t feel like he was really driving! It made all the difference on our two long journeys.

At Peter's Lookout

At Peter’s Lookout

We set off on the road to Mount Cook, passing through New Zealand’s beautiful scenery, passing the mountains we had come to know so well. We said goodbye to Lindis Pass as we passed, and hello to lovely Twizel. We made a stop here to visit one of our favourite places to eat in New Zealand – Shawtys – to eat their delicious pizza! After our lunch stop we headed for Mount Cook, taking that turn off up to the stunning scenic road that winds alongside the gorgeous Lake Pukaki. We stopped at one of our favourite lookouts – Peter’s lookout for some photos across the lake towards Mount Cook. We carried onward and soon Mount Cook was out in front of us, as we drove ever closer –  and soon arrived. We checked in to our favourite place to stay at Mount Cook – Aoraki Court Motel – where we were given a lovely view towards the mountains. We felt at home!

View from Hooker Valley bridge

View from Hooker Valley bridge

We headed out shortly after arriving to a really memorable spot for us at Mount Cook – the first Hooker Valley swing bridge. All of our visits to this area have included a walk here – particularly one with my parents when they visited back in December. There is something really special about the walk from the car park through the stunning scenery, to the viewpoint over Mueller lake and the walk down to the bridge below. It will always hold such lovely memories for us. The following morning we took a walk to Kea Point – where we were the only ones on the walk and had it all to ourselves. We reached the lookout and enjoyed the scenery and silence. We said goodbye and took one final visit to the visitor centre, before heading back to our Camry for the last part of our journey.

As we headed off leaving Mount Cook behind, I think back to October last year and our first visit to Mount Cook – venturing out for the first time on walks in the area (many in the rain!), and our amazing trip out on the Tasman lake with Glacier Explorers. And on to our two other visits since then (including one in our spaceship). So much has happened and we have come so far.

Beautiful Lake Tekapo

Beautiful Lake Tekapo

We made a final stop at Lake Tekapo and took a walk down by the lake to take in its beauty. Lake Tekapo will always hold a special place in our hearts as it was the first place in New Zealand we visited on our first trip here back in 2006. We drove from Christchurch airport late at night and woke up in the morning in a motel overlooking the lake to the most amazing view. I will never forget that feeling of amazement at seeing the shimmering beauty of Lake Tekapo and feeling a strong love for New Zealand after only one day! Now 7 years later we were at the end of an epic year here, and it felt like a fitting final place. We took our lovely Camry on his final leg to Christchurch airport, stayed overnight in a motel near the airport and flew out early Tuesday morning.

So our amazing New Zealand travel adventure had come to an end – this will be my last post about our time in New Zealand – and have one last post left about our stopover in Singapore, which will be my last about our year away.  New Zealand had given us so much – it really is hard to put into words. But as I said we will take our amazing experiences and memories with us on our journey through life, and especially take that amazing positive kiwi mentality! Goodbye New Zealand – we will be back.

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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