Vietnam – Day 10 – Ha Long Bay

Today I woke up at 6:00am. Breakfast was a rather mediocre buffet, and a few hot dishes. I had an omelet. The tour bus for Ha Long Bay picked me up at 8:30am. I choose a semi luxury 2 day option operated by A Class Cruises for about $160 USD ($210 CDN). About half way through the 4 hour drive we stopped for a bathroom break at a very overpriced tourist stop. They put a chain around your neck with a number and record how much you spend and then the workers get a kickback. I found that really annoying. The bus finally arrived in Ha Long Bay at around noon. Throughout the bus ride I was talking with a really nice couple named Danny and Sara, who are both photographers that live part time in Australia and part time in Canada. They’re absolutely adorable together.

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We immediately boarded our boat; Stellar and were greeted with a welcome drink before heading upstairs to the dining room to be briefed on the next two days, discuss safety items, and to get room keys. After obtaining my room key I went to my room to drop off my bags and clean up a bit. The room was small and smelled a bit musty, but the bed was comfortable. The bathroom even had a nice rainfall shower.

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First activity for the day was Kayaking through Luon Tunnel and spending an hour chilling out in the Kayak. This was very peaceful and relaxing. I even saw some monkeys!

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Then the tour guide took us over to an island where we all went to an outlook that you could gaze into Ha Long Bay, and then we went swimming in the ocean and hung out on the beach for an hour or so.

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It was now dinner time so we were taken back to our boat and had dinner. I called it family dinner because it was Sara and Danny, myself, and a French couple that hit it off together and hung out for the rest of the trip.

After dinner many people went upstairs to the sundeck to watch the sunset, myself included. After sunset people Sara and Danny decided to go squid fishing, but didn’t have much luck. I had a drink and talked with them while watching them for a bit before heading to bed, as I was exhausted from waking up early the entire trip.

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Ha Long Bay boat tour and explore a massive cave that can hold over 1000 people inside of it at the same time!

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August 31st 2016 – New Zealand Day 11

Today I woke up at 7:00am, and prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. I then went and explored Wellington.

First was the infamous Wellington sign, a quirky take on Hollywood.
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I then drove up Mount Victoria and had a beautiful view of the entire city, and watched planes take off from the airport for an hour or so. Wellington International Airport is pretty unique because it has over 5 million passengers a year, but is only services by a single short runway less than 7000 feet long. This combined with its very primitive terminal for its passenger volume limits its ability to really complete internationally. Overseas destinations are limited to the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific. Interestingly Singapore Airlines now flies to Wellington from Singapore with a Boeing 777-200 via Canberra because it can’t fly there directly due to the high takeoff weight associated with loading on that much fuel; therefore must load on a shorter amount of fuel to make the hop over to Canberra.
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After visiting Mount Victoria I walked around the central business district and visited the old government building, the second largest wooden structure in the world, behind Todai-ji in Japan. It was built to house New Zealand’s civil service, and now houses the law school of Victoria University of Wellington. The beautiful is bold and beautiful, as well as well-maintained. The building became the first building in the world to have a smoke-free policy over concerns about the threat of fire, due to the fact the building is entirely constructed of wood.
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Close-by the next stop was the beehive government building.
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After that I was walking towards the Wellington Cable Car when I smelled and saw delicious cookies being baked at Mrs Higgins Cookies, so I stopped and had a white macadamia nut cookie. I should have bought two!
The ride up on the Wellington Cable Car was great, and the price was right, only $7.50 return. I entered the free museum at the top and learned a lot about the cable cars history. The original cable car system opened in 1902 and ran until 1978 when it was replaced by the current system. The old system was built to imperial standards and had double track the entire way up. The new system was built to metric standards, was fully automated, and only has double track in the middle. There were and still are five stations equally space so that when the cable cars are stopped at one station, there will be a cable car at another station. It’s aim was to increase safety and passenger throughput. The original tram had over a million passengers per year in 1912, with its peak nearly two million passengers in one year, but I forget the year. The cable car averages about a million passengers per year now. I was actually lucky I was able to ride on the cable cars because the cable cars had been out of service for nearly three months until August 18th 2016 for upgrades.
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After taking the cable car back down to the central business district I decided to search out some food for lunch. I didn’t have anything in mind so I just walked along until a restaurant’s smell caught my attention; Fishermans Plate Seafood. It was an odd combination of meal choices, fish and chips, and Vietnamese. I had some sate beef soup, and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a good thing because it was rated one of the best ten restaurants in Wellington this year.
After enjoying my delicious lunch I walked around for a few more hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, and making sure to visit the infamous Cuba street, before heading back to my camper.
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The next stop was Trucks and Trailers Ltd., located in Lower Hull, a subdivision of Wellington. I picked up two replacement parts for my camper for $26 to repair the damage from my accident a few days before. This way I don’t have to go through insurance.
I then browsed through my GPS for spots to visit around Waikanae, where I wanted to be for the night, because tomorrow I’m going to visit a car museum there I found a scenic outlook, up one of the most terrifying roads I’ve been on in my life. A sheer drop to your death on one side, and a steep vertical cliff on the other to scrap up the camper really good if you’re not careful. I annoyed a few people by driving slow and steady, but I made it. The scenic point was called Paekakariki Hill Lookout.
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After viewing at the lookout I input into the GPS Waikanae Beach to stay for the night. When I arrived I sat on the beach and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the sun set.
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When I went back to my camper a German couple with two children parked next to me. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. During the middle of us talking a young cat came up to my camper and jumped inside. It ended up hanging out with my for most of the evening and then left on its own terms towards midnight.
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August 26th 2016 – New Zealand Day 6

Today I woke up at 8:00am. I was very tired because of having to move my camper in the middle of the night, and the constant wind. I prepared a smoked salmon with egg sandwich for breakfast before getting on the road.

My journey today took me along a nice and slow route along the Coromandel coast. The views were spectacular! I stopped in the town of Thames at a McDonald’s to download some more podcasts and to catch up with a few people, before slowly meandering my way along the coastline.
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I arrived at the town of Hahei, where I parked my camper and went on an hour return trip to Cathedral Cove. I ran into my friend Anne, who I’ve been hanging out with for the past few days, who was on the Kiwi Adventures tour of New Zealand! The archway at Cathedral Cove was amazing!
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I spent quite some time at Cathedral Cove before heading my way back to my camper. I then headed to Hot Water Beach, which is a naturally occurring geothermal area on a beach. Hot steam rises up through the sand and brings the water to a temperature of 45-60 degrees Celsius! I met a randomly family there with a shovel and helped them out. Within a half hour we had a pretty decent sized pool where we could all sit in and relax in the hot water. It was pretty amazing!
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The man of the family, Richard, invited me for some beers at his house at 8:30pm, and gave me the address. I had a shower, and worked on my blog until around 8:00pm and then went looking for his house, but was unable to find it. I kind of felt bad, but it was time to find a place to sleep. I drove a half hour south to a small little sleepy town called  Tairua. There was three other campers where I was, and I found a good spot and parked for the night.
BAM!!! My camper was hit by another vehicle at around 10:30pm when I was trying to sleep. By the time I had come to my senses the vehicle had taken off. My left rear  reflector was broken and the bumper pushed in a bit. I pushed the bumper back out, but the reflector will need to be replaced. I’ll look into this tomorrow because I don’t want the rental company to know about this.
Tomorrow I’m off to Rotorua, which is what I’ve been looking forward to for the whole New Zealand portion of my trip.

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August 7th 2016 – Melbourne

Today I woke up early at 5:30am. I made myself my first “fancy” breakfast on this trip; toast with smoked salmon, melted cheese, and eggs. It was delicious! I got ready to leave, and left to catch the 7:20am train to Flinders Street Station.
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After arriving at Flinders Street station I walked to Hosier Lane, which is one Melbourne’s most famous grafitti street art locations. There are 16 locations that are officially recognized by the council. While I was walking up Hosier Lane I saw a gentleman with the exact same camera is mine, which is a rare sight, so I said “nice camera”. He introduced himself as Mark. Mark had so much valueable information to give me about the street art, because he works with homeless people and people with mental health disorders. When Mark isn’t working he goes around and takes photos of the street art, which he says is quite relaxing. He pointed out a few fabulous pieces of art, which had caught my eye earlier, and told me the Melbourne famous “LushSUX” had painted those pieces. Later on in the day as I was exploring other locations I was able to spot the “LushSUX” pieces with ease.
After admiring the beautiful work in Hosier Lane I walked around the CBD (central business district), similar to our downtown, and came across and information booth, where I grabbed some maps and information pamphlets. One of the pamphlets I picked up showed the location of all the 16 grafitti art locations that are officially recognized by the council. Natually I was curious so I explored them all. The one that struct my eyes the most was the one of the Kardashians. Mark had told me the council had to censor it, so they painted over their breasts with black paint. The council is quite quick to cover up anything that is beyond PG13.
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After visiting all 16 grafitti art locations I came acorss the Queen Victoria Marketplace, where I walked around for a bit and admired all the delicious food trucks and venue’s. I thought I had almost safely cleared the area without having any purchases, when I came to a truck selling fresh mini donuts. Naturally I had to purchase them! I recieved 5 hot mini donuts filled with strawberry goo for $5.50. I was almost able to finish all of them, but I gave up on the last one!
I then walked to the Italian district to view some very old architecture. After visiting the Italian district my feet were starting to get tired as I had already walked 15km today. I caught a ride on a tram to the CBD, and then caught another tram to the Docklands area. Melbourne’s tram network is fantastic! Trams run every 10 mintutes or so, have lots of space, and the network is huge. In fact if you’re even lucky you’ll get on an original rolling stock train, which is quite beautiful. They even have some restaurant trams where you can get on and have a fine dining experience while circling the CBD.
The Docklands area is an upcoming trendy area, similar to East Village back at home. There is tons of development going on here, ranging from many malls and hotels, to low and medium rise condominium developments. There is even a huge ferris wheel called the Melbourne Star. I sat down here and ate the lunch which I had packed for myself (ham and cheese sandwich, apple, and a banana).
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After walking around the Docklands area I boarded a tram back to the CBD, where I switched to another tram to take me to Saint Kilda beach. There is a very long boardwalk at Saint Kilda where you can get a pretty beautiful view of the entire CBD.
After Saint Kilda I took a tram straight into the CBD, where I walked around a bit more until my feet could no longer take it. I got on a train back towards my hotel, but this time stayed on a stop further in search of delicious food. I disembarked the train at Preston station and walked towards High Street, where again the first thing that caught my eye was a Vietnamese place. I caved and had to go there. I’m glad I did because it was the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever eaten to date. After having dinner I walked back to my hotel, where I worked on my blog and fell asleep at 8:00pm.
Check back tomorrow so you can read about my Great Ocean Road experience!

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April 9th 2016 – Sunset at Hanalei Bay

I decided to head to Hanalei Bay Pier for some sunset photos this evening. I’m glad I went, because it was absolutely stunning! There was a young german man taking photo’s of his girlfriend modelling in the sand. He saw me with my camera and asked for some tips, so I helped him out, and even took a few photos of them together. I even saw an old dog playing in the water.

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April 6th 2016 – Exploring Southern Kauai

Today was my second consecutive day of no roosters or birds disturbing my slumber. I woke up at around 7:30am. I had to walk to get my car from the previous night, which I had left about 1/2 mile away where we caught the shuttles for the wedding. I picked up the car and drove down to the St. Regis hotel, where we had a buffet breakfast with everyone before Marc and Jen took off on their honeymoon.

Breakfast wrapped up at around 11am. I wasn’t sure at first if I actually wanted to drive all the way down to the South today, since the day was starting so late, but I decided to go ahead anyways. My first stop was the eucalyptus tree tunnel on the way to Koloa.

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Koloa is a very beautiful small town. There was an older, beautiful church, and a nice little stretch of beach.

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After visiting Koloa I drove to Port Allen for some lunch. It looks like Port Allen is a fairly industrious town, in fact it seems the South is way more industrious than the North.

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I then headed to Waimea, where I saw a bunch of racing canoes.

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The real fun then began! I headed to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. The roads are out of this world! I only had a Nissan Versa for a car, but it was still fun twisting through the roads at a decent pace. Today is the day I wish I had upgraded to the V8 Mustang! I’ve never driven on such twisty roads in my life! The views were out of this world spectacular. Along the road there were about half a dozen official lookouts, but I stopped everywhere I could do so safely. The round trip into the national park took about 2 hours, which included stopping to take photos.

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It was starting to get dark so I head back to the condo, where I just relaxed for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow is a beach day, unless it rains!

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