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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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 30th 2016 – New Zealand Day 10

Today I had a lazy start to my day. I woke up at around 8:00am. I made myself a home made egg McMuffin style sandwich, and a coffee before hitting the road. My first stop was Pukaha Mount Bruce, a wildlife and bird sanctuary that help to reintroduce and repopulate endangered species, such as the Kiwi, into a protected environment. I saw over two dozen birds, as well as Kiwi’s, including a rare white Kiwi. Their day’s are reversed so that we can see them (sort of), but my camera was unable to capture them very well. They are under an infrared light so I had to convert the images to black and white, and it was nearly pitch black and flash photography was not allowed.

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I spent a few hours walking around the wildlife sanctuary before heading on to my next stop, Castlepoint Lighthouse. The cast iron lighthouse was built in 1913, and originally used oil and a wick and needed to be manned continuously. As technology evolved the lighthouse was converted to run a 1000 watt bulb off of a diesel generator in 1954, and subsequently converted to run off mains in 1961, with the diesel generator as a backup. The facility was fully automated in 1988. The views at Castlepoint were amazing!

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I was pretty hungry after climbing up to Castlepoint so I decided to have some lunch, some leftover spaghetti and meat sauce from last night. It was now about a two and a half hour drive towards Wellington, but I decided to break it up by stopping in Carleton to see more Art Deco, and Greytown to admire Victorian style architecture, as well as some Art Deco.

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I arrived in Wellington during rush hour, but surprisingly traffic wasn’t that bad. That’s thanks to their proper planning and use of public transportation. They have the highest usage rates of public transportation in all of New Zealand. I visited a camper dump station to drain and refill my water before finding a parking spot overlooking the beautiful southern coast. The night sky was perfectly clear so I even had the opportunity to do a long exposure shot of the milky way!

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August 8th 2016 – The Great Ocean Road

Today I woke up early again so that I could get ready in time for my tour of The Great Ocean Road. I took the train into the CBD and waited at the Immigration Museum for pickup at 7:45am. The tour was a medium sized tour with 22 people. I deliberately picked a smaller tour, because I felt it would be a bit more personalized, and I’m glad I did because it was fantastic. Steve, the tour guide, was exceptionally knowledgeable about the grand history of Melbourne and told us all fascinating facts about Melbourne, and various things along the way.

As we were passing over West Gate bridge Steve pointed out that two years into the construction of the bridge that a portion of the bridge actually collapsed, killing 35 workers. It was the worst industrial accident in Australia’s history. He said the bridge has numerous problems and they are working on it nearly every day. The bridge was opened in 1978.

During our commute to our first stop steve pointed out that Melbourne is actually a fairly young town, around a 150 years old, and the gold rush caused expansive growth, with a lot of Italian and Greek immigrants. The gold was about 100km south of Melbourne. The settlers actually had an opportunity to settle closer in Geelong, but the British actually messed up drawing the map and made it seem as if Melbourne was closer, so most people settled there. Steve also pointed out that Avalon airport, the airport I landed at a few days ago, is owned by Lindsay Fox, who is a multi-billionaire. He started his first business (Linfox) as a truck driver delivering lemonade during the summer, and firewood during the winter.

We were almost at our first stop when Steve pointed out the famous Pole House, which stands many metres above the bush. It’s a posh place to stay if you want a romantic weekend for a few hundred dollars. This house survived the great bush fire on 1983 because it was so high above the bushes.

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Our first stop was for tea, coffee, and biscuits. Our second stop was the Archway commemorating the workers who built The Great Ocean Road. Originally there was a toll booth to collect toll fares for using The Great Ocean Road, but it is now free. Three archways have been built on this site. The first was knocked down in 1970 by a truck that was too tall, the second burned down in the 1983 bush fire. The road originally was started in 1919 after World War 1, and opened three years later in 1922. Picks, shovels, and Dynamite were used to clear the way for the road. The second phase of the road was built in the Great Depression, to stimulate the economy.

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On our way to the third stop we oversaw the Grand Pacific Hotel, which Steve pointed out was named incorrectly, as it should have been the Grand Atlantic Hotel. The third stop was Cumberland River. The Fourth stop was Kennett River, where we saw Koala’s and four types of birds. There was a red bird called Crimson Rosella, a green bird which is some kind of Parrot, a white bird called a Cockatoo, and a black bird which was some sort of raven.

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Our fifth stop was Apollo Bay, which was a whaling station. It received its name from a whaling ship that frequently ported there. Right before arriving in Apollo Bay we passed a waterfall on the right side of the bus that belonged to Wild Dog Creek. In Apollo bay a complimentary lunch of pizza was served. I had a Hawaiian pizza, which was actually quite delicious!

The sixth stop was a “cool” rain forest. Most rain forest that we are used to are the ones that we think of in South America which are “hot” rain forests, but this one is a “cool” rain forest. It doesn’t get too hot here all year round, but it does get fairly wet, and rains over 2 metres of rain per year. This rain forest has world’s tallest and oldest eucalyptus trees, with some reaching over 80 metres tall, and some are over 400 years old. There also was some beautiful ferns here!

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The seventh stop was Loch and Gorge, which was just amazing!

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The eight stop was the 12 Apostles, which Steve told us makes no sense because there was only ever 8, and now they are down to 7.

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The ninth and final stop before heading home was Gibson Steps, which we walked down to see two famous rocks called Gog and Magog.

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The tour ended at 8:45pm back where I was picked up in Melbourne. I thanked Steve for the great day, gave him a tip, and boarded the train back towards my hotel. I then went to bed at around 11:00pm.

Tomorrow I will be exploring more of Melbourne, before I board a 9:30pm flight to Darwin. Check back soon for my latest blog!

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August 4th 2016 – First Day In Sydney

After arriving at Sydney I was greeted by a very long customs lineup. It took about an hour to get through and then you have to wait in another lineup after the baggage collection area, even if you only have carry on like I did. This lineup was to check randomly to see if you are bringing anything into the country you shouldn’t be, such as food.
After that I went to purchase an OPAL card and boarded a train to Sydney Central Station. The train was nice, clean, and looked fairly new. When I got off the train at Central Station it had started to rain a bit so I put on my rain jacket. I had some time to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I went and walked through Hyde Park, to the Quay area, and The Rocks District. I saw the Sidney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, tons of beautiful buildings, and lots of beautiful art.
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At 10:30am I was getting fairly hungry so I walked to a mall near the Quay. I was in search of a sandwich, but the first place that caught my eye was of course Vietnamese, which is my favorite food. The Pho soup was okay, but far from my favorite. At $7.50 AUD it was a good deal considering how expensive it is in Australia.
After lunch I went and walked on the Harbor bridge and took a beautiful photo of the Opera House. This was such a spectacular view.
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After walking across the bridge I decided I would start making my way towards my hotel and see if my room was ready. During my walk it started to downpour. An off duty bus pulled up next to me and a woman named Jenny asked where I was going. I told her I was going to the Devere Hotel in Potts Point. She said “come on in. I’ll take you”. The bus ride was a short ten minute ride. She told me all about the harbor area, and where I was staying. I learned a bit about her and her family and how expensive housing here is. She dropped me right off at the front door to my hotel. I couldn’t thank her enough!
It was noon but my room was ready. I settled in and had a shower and relaxed for a bit. In a matter of only fourty minutes the weather cleared up and the sun was shining again. I decided I wanted to go to Bondi Beach. I walked to Kings Cross station and took the train two stops to Bondi station, where I caught the 333 bus right to the beach. This is a very beautiful and long beach that stretches in a nice arc around a little bay.
I took some photos and then started to do the Bondi Beach Pathway but a lot of the pathway was destroyed a few weeks earlier due to a pretty substantial storm. There was a detour through a posh neighbourhood. 8 caught a glimpse of some very nice multi million dollar flats before being returned to the pathway. The views from the pathway were spectacular.
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I took the 333 bus back to Bondi station, and then took the train back to Kings Cross Station. Outside of Kings Cross station there is a liquor store where I picked up a half dozen Australian beers to try. I walked back to my hotel, and began to write my blog, while enjoying two of the beers. I had a Victoria Bitters (bold and a bit bitter) and XXXX Gold (similar to Kokanee gold).
I was feeling a bit tired and was fighting a cold I’ve had for the past few days so I decided to have a nap. I set an alarm for 5:00pm so I could do a night walk tour, but I shut it off. I woke up at 1:00am. I guess I needed some sleep…
I checked my Apple Watch and noticed I had walked more than 25km and 240 minutes today! I went and grabbed some McDonalds because I was starving. The Big Mac’s here don’t taste as good as home. There really is a difference when it comes to Alberta beef. Nothing really compares in my opinion.
My next adventure is the Blue Mountains, but you’ll have to check back for the next blog post for that one.
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April 8th 2016 –Hanakapi’ai Trail

Today I woke up at 8:30am, partially because I was tired, and partially because I had too much to drink the night before. I made myself some coffee, and had breakfast and drove towards the trailhead, which was about a half hour away.

The trailhead taunts you with what is going to be a pretty difficult hike, but well worth it in the end. The hike is brutal in some parts, but easy in others. Here’s an elevation profile so you can see what I’m talking about.

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The views are spectacular all along the way. You basically run alongside the ocean for the first 2.0 miles (3.2 km).

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After the 2.0 miles you reach a beach called Hanakapi`ai beach. The beach doesn’t have much sand at all, but it has a lot of amazing rock formations that people have placed.

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After the beach you continue inland another 2.0 miles (3.2 km) to Hanakapi’ai Falls. You cross over the river multiple times to get there, and I’ll be honest I fell in once and it wasn’t pretty. At least I got a good laugh, as well as others. I could hear the falls getting louder and louder as I approached. Even the photo from a far was quite beautiful.

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When I arrived at the falls there was a ton of people there, some even swimming in the little lake at the bottom. I quickly noticed that someone was sitting on the rocks enjoying herself, and thought it would be a neat photo to take a picture of.

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I then gazed my eyes up and down the falls and was quite overwhelmed by how beautiful they were.

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Oh yeah and there was a random kitten just hanging out by the waterfalls… Nobody knew why it was there or how it got there. Poor kitty, but it looks like many people were feeding it.

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It took 2.5 hours to hike to the falls, and 1.5 hours to hike back to the car. 22000 steps later, and I’m exhausted. I drove back to the condo, showered, and then got some beer, chicken, and mashed potatoes from the grocery store. I talked with Kirsty for a bit, downloaded my photos, went for a swim in the pool, and now I’m just going to relax for the rest of the day.

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