Vietnam – Day 11 – Ha Long Bay

Today I woke up at 6:00am. I showered and got ready to start the day. Breakfast was at 6:45am and was a delicious buffet with a large variety of food, including hot cooked eggs, omelets, etc. After breakfast we took a smaller boat to Sung Sot cave, which can hold over 1000 people in it at the same time. It was absolutely breathtaking, even bigger than the caves that I’ve seen in New Zealand, and the United States.

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After visiting the caves everyone gathered around for some cooking lessons, but I found them mediocre compared to the cooking class that I took a few days ago in Ha Noi. I was given a few hours to relax before the ship docked at noon.

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Checkout was noon and the tour bus took everyone back the same way we came, again stopping at a similar expensive touristy spot half way back to Hanoi. I was dropped off at my hotel at around 4:30pm. I was again staying in a different hotel in Hanoi, this one was called La Belle Vie Hotel, a rather luxurious hotel which I received for free from hotels.com. Every 10 hotels I stay at I end up getting one free for the blended average price of the last 10. You can also get sponsored by hotels to review them and leave a good opinion if you are crafty enough with your social media skills on Instagram.

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I relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon before taking a 30000 Dong (1.85 CDN) GRAB back to the to the very famous Bun Cha Huong Lien Obama, where former US President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate on May 23rd 2016, where I ate a few nights ago when I was in Hanoi.

After eating I decided to walk back to my hotel which took about 45 minutes or so. I stayed up and edited photos before heading to bed at 10:00pm.

Check back tomorrow when I relax and spend time in Hanoi before taking a flight to Siam Reap, Cambodia.

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September 3rd 2016 – New Zealand Day 14

Today I had a nice lazy start to the day. I woke up around 8:00am without an alarm clock. I had turkeys “gobbling” to wake me up instead. I worked on my blog, made breakfast, and had coffee, before driving about one kilometre to the Waitomo glow worms.

Having rented my camper through a company called THL I was given free entry to any of the glow worm caves. I had lots of time so I decided to visit all three of them.
The first one, Ruakuri Cave, or “den of dogs” was first discovered around 400-500 years ago when the Maori discovered wild dogs and followed them to the cave entrance, where the wild dogs were trying to make their home.
The cave entrance was used by the Maori as a burial site, and is thus a sacred area that has now been protected. The cave was originally open to the public from 1904 until 1988, when it was closed due to a legal and financial dispute. It was reopened in 2005. A man-made entrance was built between 2003 and 2005 with an impressive spiral drum entrance, so that the sacred original entrance would not be used. This also make it the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere.
The cave tour started the amazing decent down this engineering marvel of a spiral entrance. I believe the height was approximately 20 metres tall, but don’t quote me on that.
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The tour then took the group through a maze of caves that had heights between 2 metres to nearly 20 metres tall. It was absolutely amazing. There were glow worms spread out in different areas of the caves.
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The limestone formations in the caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean, approximately 30 million years ago. The caves began forming when earth movement caused the limestone bend and nickel under the ocean and rise above the sea floor. As the limestone was exposed to the air it cracked and weakened allowing for water to flow through, slowly dissolving the limestone over millions of years, forming the huge caves.
The cave formations; stalactites (grow on the top) and stalagmites (grow on the ground) grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls leaving behind limestone deposits.
Glow worms are various groups of insect larvae and adult larviform females that glow through bioluminescence.
I then visited the Aranui cave, opened in 1911, which had more cave formations, some even more grand than the ones in the Raukuri caves! The Aranui cave didn’t have any glow worms though.
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The last cave was the original Waitomo cave, opened in 1889! This cave tour was really special. It felt like something out of a movie. The tour takes you through the caves, which people over the last 125 years have unfortuneatly ruined most of the cave formations. The tour gets very special after about 200 metres, because you then board a boat in the dark, which the guide uses guide wires to guide the boat through this most amazing array of glow worms. There was thousands upon thousands of glow worms and the reflection of them on the water below was out of this world. Sadly no photography is allowed in this cave out of respect of the Maori’s.
After the glow worm caves I decided to drive about a half hour away to Mangapohue Bridge, and Marakopa Waterfalls. Managapohue is the remains of what was formerly a cave, but mostly fell down.
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I decided to camp at the same spot as last night because it was nice, and close by. When I parked my camper the campsite manager Shelly came over and we talked for about an hour and she said to come over tomorrow morning and she’ll show me how the boat and the plane history and how they came to be at this site.
I had a fairly early night and ended up going to sleep at around 8:30pm.
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August 27th 2016 – New Zealand Day 7

Today I woke up at 7:30am. For breakfast I made an egg skillet with a bunch of vegetables, served with coffee.

Today was a slow lazy drive down to Rotorua. I stopped along the side of the road for lunch before continuing on my way to Rotorua. My first stop was the Government Gardens where I spent a considerable time walking around and admiring the buildings.
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There was a path near the Government Gardens that followed along Lake a Rotorua that I took. The path followed the thermally active area on the south side and brought me to an area called Sulphur Point. The view was quite spectacular and reminded me a lot of my Iceland trip a few years ago. Iceland has a very special place in my heart and now New Zealand does too! I’m quite fascinated with geothermal activity!
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I continued along the path to a beautiful spot that had a lot of ducks and birds. They were very used to being around humans so didn’t mind getting up close. I got a few cute photos of them.
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After this I got back in my camper and drove to Okere falls. I did pass a sign on my right side for Hells Gate, which I planned on going to after, but more on that later.
Okere Falls had a few lookout points on what was about an hour return trip. My sister had gone on a white water raft down these very falls earlier on in the year when she visited New Zealand. The views were spectacular and the rafting looked like it would have been a lot of fun. I showed up too late in the day to do any rafting, but the views were still good. There was previously a hydroelectric power station here for Rotorua with an installed capacity of 200 kW. The power station was decommissioned in 1939. The river and falls are a very popular spot for white water rafting now!
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Further along the trail I came to some steps called Hinemoa’s Steps which led me down to Tutea’s Cave, where Maori women and children would make their way down by rope to hide out in times of war.
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I continued along the path to Trout Pool, which wasn’t all that exciting. It was time to head back to the camper! Upon getting back to the camper I decided I should investigate Hells Gate, but by the time I arrived I was told that I wouldn’t have enough time to view it and enjoy it. They told me to come back at 9:00am tomorrow.
It was now 5:00pm and time to find a parking spot. I found a quiet spot where only three campers were allowed to park in Rotorua. This area was the most most desirable spot because it was free and didn’t smell like sulphur like the majority of other spots.
My sister told me that Rotorua was a great place to get some really good savoury pies, so I went out in search of some, but sadly Rotorua seems to shut down after 5:00pm, except for the one block designated for night life. There was only very expensive  restaurants ($30-40 plates) open when I went searching. I took a pass, but instead prepared myself a really nice chuck steak with roasted garlic, and roasted vegetables. I had a nice 2011 bottle of Merlot to pair with it, and it was delicious!
Tomorrow I will explore Hells Gate, and more geothermal activity in the area, before heading to Lake Taupo!

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May 7th 2016 – Cold War Bunker & Heart Creek Hike

Today I went on two hikes with my friend Carissa. The first hike was to a Cold War Bunker at Lac Des Arcs, near Canmore, Alberta. The hike was quite easy; two kilometres each way, with only about 100 metres of elevation gain. It took approximately half an hour to get to the bunker. I had fairly high expectations, but I was quite blown away when we got there. We even saw a Pack Rat living in the bunker.

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After we finished looking inside the bunker we went back to the parking lot where we parked, and started on the Heart Creek Hike, which was on the other end of the parking lot. The hike to the waterfall at the end of the Heart Creek Hike took about an hour. We saw a bunch of people rock climbing along the way. When we got to the end of the hike you could hear the waterfall, but couldn’t see it. I took off my shoes and climbed into the water with my camera and climbed about 20 feet up some rocks to see the waterfall around a corner. I’m glad I did, because it was quite beautiful. We even saw a very cute teacup Chihuahua.

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April 7th 2016 – Exploring Northern Kauai

Today I woke up early because it was raining fairly heavily, and the birds and roosters were fairly noisy. I had breakfast, went to the bank to get some more US currency, and then back to the Lei Petite Café & Bakery for a coffee.

The rest of the wedding group were going on a boat cruise in the South today, but I didn’t really wish to spend the $150ish USD on it, so I stayed behind. I went to the Hanalei Bay Hotel to pick up Krstylyn (Mike’s friend), who also didn’t go on the cruise.

The day started out by heading North into the pouring rain. After crossing numerous one lane bridges, and a small river (don’t tell the rental car company), we came to fairly large looking cave on the left side of the road. The cave is called Maniniholo dry cave.

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The next stop was Waikanaloa wet cave. These caves are not safe to swim in, albeit tempting, and eventually feed into the ocean.

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After that we were hungry so we drove to Kapaa, which was about a 30 minute drive away. We went to Chicken in a Barrel, where the meat is literally smoked in a barrel, which resembles a garbage can. The food was incredible and quite tasty. We have a meat platter, and fish taco’s.

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We then went and purchased things for people back home. I got Kirsty a hand carved rosewood vase. It’s absolutely stunning and will be perfect for flowers when I get them for her. Oh yeah we also found something funny… organic Shave Ice… Seriously?

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After that I drove Krstylyn back to her hotel so she could get ready to leave for the airport, as today was her last day, as well as a few others.

I then went back to Kapaa later on in the day for some drinks, and then had a relaxing evening, and FaceTime’d with Kirsty.

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