A few weekends ago Amy and I went to Uluru, which is a rock in the middle of Australia (it’s actually more to the left of Australia) and it is just about in the Northern Territory, but very close to the Western Australia border.
We got on the plane and saw another guy get on with us who had two bags of cheeseburgers. They sat in the overhead locker for 4 hours and were then handed out to his Qantas ground crew friends on arrival, who then tucked into them as if it was Christmas. It was disgusting to watch.
Central Australia Landscape
The scenery across Australia is incredible, you see the green of the coast, fade into the blue mountains and slow but surely it gets more and more red and crazy looking like that shown above.
We landed at Uluru airport which basically welcomes you to Ayers Rock Resort, as there’s not that much out here. It was lucky really as I hadn’t really planned anything and didn’t know how we were going to do anything. We went straight to the place we were staying which was called Longitude 131, which is 15 little tents that look out over the rock. The service there was fantastic we arrived and were told the itinerary for the days we were going to be there (which included some very early starts). Here’s Amy outside of our hut –
Amy outside our Tent at Longitude 131
That day was already planned out and we went on a base walk of the rock. It was fun getting on the bus and travelling to the rock which is incredible from a distance as well as standing right next to it. At the end of the tour we came across a little area where some drinks and canapes were setup for us which was really nice.
Ayers Rock and Me
Having water all the time was required because the air was so dry, it was like being on a plane for 3 days in a row but with more leg room. That evening we went to the fantastic restaurant at the resort and had some delicious food before going back to the hotel room and falling asleep as early as possible as it was a 5:45am start the next day for our trip to the Kata Tjuta, which is another rock nearby which kind of loses out to Uluru but is just as impressive from a tourist perspective.
We walked down one of the nooks of Kata Tjuta and saw a Rock Wallaby and also some Camels, which ever since they arrived have taken over central Australia apparently.
Amy and me at Kata Tjuta
Although it was 30 degrees in the day time it was really really cold at night (and at 5:45am) hence why we had pullovers and ponchos to keep us warm!
That evening we did dinner under the stars, which was basically an area setup away from the resort where we had dinner around a table with all of the other guests and got told about the stars, although there was a full moon the entire time we were there which meant we didn’t see too many stars but it was still fun.
We opted out of any other early morning starts as we just wanted to do a bit of relaxing, although when I booked the trip a free helicopter ride was a part of the package. It was just a 15 minute flight over towards the rock and back again but it was really good fun and a great way to see the place.
Uluru from the Helicopter
That was the end of our package adventure and the rest of the time we just spent relaxing, talking to the other guests and I even jumped in the pool (it was freezing). One of the things that amazed me about the area was how green it was, apparently they’d so much rain the past two years it was unusual for it to be as green as it was.
Everything at the resort was all-inclusive, so the mini bar and the main bar at the hotel was all totally free, if you were into drinking you wouldn’t have been able to walk out of the resort at the end of it! Every day the room keepers replenished the cadbury chocolate bar supply in our room, which I would then take out and put into my suitcase, hidden under some clothes. On the last night I went to pack my bag and found one of the bars had been eaten by some sort of creature with claws! That was pay back for me stealing the chocolates I think –
Chocolate eaten by a creature of some sort
It was a fantastic trip and I would recommend it to anyone, we really didn’t want to leave which is amazing considering it’s the middle of nowhere!
Last time I visited Japan (7 years ago – wow that went quick) I’d just finished a year out in Australia and I had a great time touring Tokyo and all of the suburbs. This time, Amy had a work trip to Tokyo so I decided to go along with her and spend the weekends either side holidaying and for me during the week.
So we left Friday night and did an overnight leg to Tokyo with Qantas, luckily we got upgraded thanks to all of the points we’ve acquired so it was not too bad a trip flying into the Northern Hemisphere. The first think I noticed was how quiet it was, it was the same when I visited here last but for some reason I’d totally forgotten it was 6am on a Saturday morning and things would soon change once the week got started. We arrived and it was a bit wet but the temperature was double that of Sydney, at around 28-30 degrees most days –
View from Tokyu Hotel and first night rain
In the first morning because we’d changed hemisphere’s we thought it was mid-day as we woke up when really it was about 6am, just because the days are so much longer than in Sydney at the moment.
On Sunday Amy and I visited the Meiji Shrine, it is in Yoyogi Park and is a nice tourist stop off, there were thousands of people by the time we’d got there and amongst all of the tourists there was about four weddings going on. In fact the whole area of Omote Sando had weddings going on.
There was also this thing happening with a massive flag. The guy holding the flag looked like he was going to pass out as it was hot and the flag must have weighed quite a lot –
Meiji Shrine Flag
We also saw some contestants from the amazing race, who were getting into taxis and who you can see in the video. We ate some amazing food on the trip and I photographed most of it, one of our favourites was this little place in Ginza where we had tiny sandwiches and green tea that had never ending fill ups. You can see in the photo below it’s Sunday because the street is closed (which happens in Ginza) –
Green Tea and Sandwiches in Ginza
Whilst Amy was at work I headed over to Roppongi Hills to go up the skyview building. Last time I was in Japan I didn’t come to this one and opted for the free version. I actually found the skyview by accident and joined a queue at about 9:45am and was one of the first people in. The rest of the queue were actually there to go to some exhibition so I had the entire skyview to myself.
One of the cool things about Japan is that the culture is so different from anywhere else that you see things and cannot figure out what is going on. This happened on a number of occasions, first was outside a place called ‘Johnnys’, it had loads of girls queuing, no photos allowed and nothing really for sale that we could see. The second time was on the roof of this huge building in Roppongi. Around the helicopter pad are security guards and helpers with a Disney exhibition that spins around and plays loud music. The third time was after Amy and I had dinner at a nice restaurant hidden away down a back street, when we came out there was groups of girls all standing in silence on the street in neat little groups, like something out of a horror movie, we never figured that one out.
Me on the roof with the helicopter pad and Disney Show
At the sky view centre there was also a museum called the Mori Art Museum that had an awesome “Arab Express” exhibition that was designed to educate the Japanese about middle eastern culture.
It had some awesome displays, such as a fountain of oil, that was based on oil fields of Iraq, but by far my favourite was the works by Khalil Rabah, the image below is actually two paintings that look photo realistic. He painted two exactly the same photo realistic paintings to symbolise the throwaway nature of digital cameras (I think). Anyway it was amazing to think these are hand paintings –
Photo realistic painting by Khalil Rabah
I did so much walking in the week my feet hurt, I visited most of the major suburbs and tried one day to do it London style by walking between them. I made the mistake of thinking I could walk through the Togu Palace and ended up walking around the outside of it which took ages though.
London Bus in Shinjunku
At the end of the week we made a trip to Kyoto, we got the Shinkansen which is better known as the bullet train. It goes 270km/h and runs exactly to the minute with no delays. However the speed and timeliness is made up for by the price, it is extremely expensive.
Amy on the Shinkansen bound for Kyoto
We had one afternoon and one morning in Kyoto so we had to do a whirlwind tour of all of the places. Luckily taxi’s were in abundance here and getting from one shrine/temple/castle to another was easy (just the traffic was annoying). Here’s me at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, it wasn’t one of my favourite places because of all of the tourist shops with the junk they sell. The best was the Sanjusangendo temple, but you were not allowed to take photos, it basically had a room with 1000 life sized statues built in the 13th century.
Me at the Fushimi Inari Shrine
We also made a visit to Nijo Castle which was my second favourite place in Kyoto. That evening we went to a restaurant in Kyoto down town called Ninja Kyoto. It’s basically where you eat underground in little caves and you get served by girls dressed as Ninjas (some of them were sexy dressed ninjas) and then a “Ninja Magician” comes around and does magic tricks. Then at the end of the dinner you enter a labyrinth (maze) and have to find things whilst the Ninjas appear from no where and scare you. Basically the norm in Japan! Most of the food was black in colour but it tasted delicious although we’re not sure how they made everything so black.
Ninja Waitress in Kyoto
When we first arrived in Tokyo I posted a picture on Facebook and a friend, Mika, said we should meet up with her in Nagoya. It was a bit of luck because Nagoya is a major city, comparable to Detroit in terms of car manufacturing between Tokyo and Kyoto and is one of the stops on the Shinkansen.
Mika and me with view of Nagoya
It was really nice to see Mika and she took us to a fantastic Japanese restaurant right the way up this building where no tourist had ever been before (I don’t think I’d be able to find it again). We also tried some green tea (hot and cold with gold flakes) and did some shopping in the short time we had in Nagoya. We promised Mika we’d post her a Kangaroo when we got back.
When we got back to Tokyo we only had limited time so I took Amy to one of the places I remember being quite good on my first visit, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
Amy at Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
We then made the trip back to the airport and back to Sydney, where luckily we arrived on a sunny but cold day. I really like Japan it is definitely my top Asian city (compared to Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai) that I’ve been to. The people are very friendly and it’s the safest feeling city I know of. Also for people who are scared of radiation from Fukushima, when I checked out the independent radiation level readings for the time we were there, it was half that of London and New York so nothing to worry about unless you plan on visiting Fukushima itself. As I mentioned it’s also a very culturally different to the point where you have no idea what is going on, which is quite hard to find thanks to globalisation.
Bring on Bali next week!
I finally found the time to put together the Maldives video! It’s quite long and might be a bit boring for some but we loved it and wanted as many memories in the video as possible.
Some of the highlights include hermit crabs, sharks, blue skies, blue sea, Amy, sushi making, bike riding, food eating, cocktail drinking, sunset watching, Baros, Soneva Gilli, pool, Amy’s birthday and a water spout (really).
We wish we could go back right now!
Amy had not been on holiday for a while and really wanted one. So I said for a surprise why not organize one and not tell me, a bit like when we went to New Zealand for the engagement. So that is exactly what we did, Amy booked it all and didn’t tell me where we were going.
At our engagement party Nancy and Marcy told me I was going to Adelaide, I honestly thought they had spilled the beans by accident. So I was all ready for a trip to a city in Australia I have not visited yet. Unfortunetly I kind of ruined the surprise when I picked up my passport holder to hide it before we left and it felt a lot lighter, both my passports were missing! I didn’t tell Amy I knew we weren’t going to Adelaide but I still had no idea where we were going which was exciting.
So we got to the airport and I read the checkin desk sign and it said Phuket! I was trying to figure out where that was, it is in Thailand FYI. So we got the nine hour flight from Sydney to Phuket airport. I still didn’t know exactly where we were staying so it was fun to be whisked away in a car at the airport, which took us to a port, where we got on a tiny little boat and headed out into the darkness to one of the islands!
Six Senses Yai Noi
So it turned out we were staying in a lovely little cabin on an island called Ko Yai Noi at a resort called Six Senses. It was an amazing little retreat and we had a great little hut complete with a swimming pool, indoor shower, outdoor shower, bath you name it –
Our hut and pretending not to fall in the swimming pool
Now unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. Thailand decided it was going to have the worse weather in March that they’ve had in 30 years. It was supposed to be the dry season but it was not! We did have some nice days of weather and we took advantage of those ones when we could. We made a trip out to Hong Island on one of the little boats which was fun.
We had a funny story from there, but first here’s Amy enjoying a nice cold bottle of Corona that we’d got packed for us as a picnic underneath a Tsunami warning siren beacon –
Amy enjoying a Corona under Tsunami Warning Beacon
So when we arrived on the island I was so busy taking pictures of the Tsunami evacuation route signs and making videos of it I didn’t notice the “No alcohol” sign. When we walked back from our picnic which involved drinking some booze I read the sign and it said “fines include one month in prison or 1000 baht fine ($30)”. If we’d got caught I was really hoping they’d let us go back to our cabin and get the $30 as I didn’t fancy one month in a Thai prison!!!
Amy and I on Hong Island blissfully unaware of our crime
On the penultimate night of our stay on Ko Yai Noi island, it was looking like 50/50 chance that we would be able to leave. It was ok because we were going to a hotel on the mainland and not back to the airport. Some people on that day were forced to stay and they couldn’t fly back home which would have been a nightmare. Fortunetly on our last day the boat was operating , although I wasn’t looking forward to it although I got the impression it was a bigger boat taking us back as we had to drive to the other side of the Island to get on it. When we got there though it was the same mini boat we came on which made me a bit nervous although the waves weren’t nearly as bad as I imagined them to be.
We sat in the back of this trailer to get to the other port on the Island and it was like we were being evacuated from a disaster zone. In the resort it didn’t feel like this the realities of outside were a bit different –
Ko Yai Noi Evac.
So we made it back to the mainland which was a relief and moved onto a new placed called The Pavilions Phuket, which was renamed from The Phuket Pavilions for what I imagine would be SEO reasons.
It was just off Laguna Beach and meant we could get out and about and do things in the poor weather. We headed to some malls, they had Zara in one of them, Australia still doesn’t! We even went to a show called Simon which was really tacky but brilliant at the same time. What made it more fun is that a lot of the audience were Chinese and whenever the lady-boys sang a Chinese song the crowd would go crazy. Not so much for the western songs.
Simon Show Phuket Lady Boys
So that was our holiday to Thailand and it was really good fun, we’ve also got a reason to go back now as we’d like to see it in the Sun!!!! Altogether a great little break. I’ve got enough footage for a video which I’ll create soon.
Here’s the video that goes with the trip to the UK. In it you’ll see Dorchester, Yorkshire and London. With appearances by my parents, David and Betty’s dog Poppy, Mark, Karine, Nina, Felix, Andy, Alex, Gin, Kie, Chris, Ian, Ian C and Lorraine!
So here’s the video which I made from various bits of footage of the engagement weekend in Queenstown two weeks ago. The old ship you see twice in the footage was built the same year as Titanic but managed to stay afloat for a lot longer!
On Friday morning I told Amy to get up at 3:30am which she was not very happy about. Her excitement changed when I drove past the domestic terminal and onto the international one! So it was all a secret until the check-in desk told us we’d need to pickup our suitcases in Auckland to transfer them ourselves to Queenstown!
Queenstown is a little town in the southern part of New Zealand, if you don’t know where New Zealand is, don’t worry, it’s a small island off the bottom of Australia.
Queenstown totally blew us away, flying into Queenstown airport in the plane, all you can see out of both windows is terrain, which is a bit scarey but amazing to think of the massive mountains that surrounded us. The airport is like as if we just arrived at some luxury ski resort in Europe, I wasn’t expecting that at all.
We stayed at a resort called Azur which is the best place we’ve ever stayed, the view from the window was spectacular and totally private, breakfast was served all day and canapés came down in the afternoon and for Amy it was drink as much wine as you can as it was all only a phone call away! The mini-bar was also free, which I’ve never heard of, it also had a dog called Elvis, can you guess why –
Elvis the Dog at Azur, Queenstown
So, Saturday morning came around and we rang in our breakfast order of fruit salad and pancakes and some cappuccinos. The sun was out and as we sat on the balcony I decided it was the right time, so I asked Amy if she wanted to get married and she thankfully said yes!
After the excitement of getting engaged, we finished off breakfast and headed off towards Arrowtown, which is a small gold mining town. On the drive to Arrowtown there’s a river called the “Shotover River” which has canyon sections and a very quick boat that goes down them. Amy wanted to have a go on it, I would have been happy with a normal boat to view the amazing scenery but New Zealand and adventure sports go hand in hand, so here’s Amy and I doing a powerslide on the shotover jet boat –
Amy and I on the Shotover Jet Boat (bottom left)
Amy is waving in the above picture I am doing as the guy told us and hanging onto the bar. It was really good fun and amazing to go so close to the rocks at such high speed without hitting them.
We then continued on our drive to Arrowstown which was very nice, here’s Amy and I having our first luncheon as an engaged couple –
Amy and I in Arrowstown enjoying some Lemon Lime and Bitters
We had a great time in the town where we visited a shop called Ogle which I’m sure will get a letter from Google’s lawyers at some stage. That evening after a tiring day of being engaged we headed back to the lodge for canapés and to get ready for dinner at a restaurant called Gantleys. We had a hire car for the trip but we didn’t really need it, the lodge was happy to drive us around and even if the destination was further than they would take us, a free taxi would pick us up from downtown Queenstown and take us to the restaurant!
Queenstown suffers and benefits from a transient English backpacker population that do lots of jobs, so we were served by very few New Zealand people the entire time, mostly English which was funny.
Amy and I at Gantleys, Queenstown
The next day we drove alongside Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy, a small town right at the end of the lake, I was intrigued to find out what was around the corner of the mountain that we were staying on. The view of the ranges after we got around the mountain corner was stunning, the trees are all ferns and we really could have been on a ski trip in Switzerland –
Amy with some mountains and snow peeks
It was a nice drive (you can see the road in the right hand side of the picture) and we got to see some sheep as well. We then headed into downtown Queenstown to get some lunch at a place called “The Cow” on Cow Lane. We tried to visit Botswana Butchery but it had burnt down 🙁
The next day we got the phone call the helicopters were flying, so we took a scenic flight out to Milford Sound and a cruise down the river there. Milford Sound is a four hour drive from Queenstown, or a 20 minute flight, simply because the road just won’t go straight to the Sound. The flight also had a quick stop off at the top of a mountain on a glacier, I put on a t-shirt and a light jumper and hoped for the best. Our pilot was a local farmer (they have to have helicopters to get anywhere) and was very nice, we even did a little fly over his house to wave to his wife and one of his children! Amy said she could see his dog and he told us he had 17 of them! We also asked him how big his farm was and he said its about 120,000 acres (187 square miles)!! Here’s Amy and I on top of glacier looking cold but having a great time –
Amy and I on top of a glacier near Milford Sound
Milford Sound was very beautiful, the boat trip was fun and we got to see some seals and a little penguin which made me feel really stupid not bringing a coat! That evening we tried the legendary “Ferg Burger” which was very nice!
The next day was our last day so what better way to spend it than go on the Gondola in Queenstown for a ride on the Luge! It was awesome fun but again could have probably have done with wearing a coat –
Amy and me on the Luge
So then we flew back to Auckland and then back to Sydney, arriving on Sunday night just before a load of planes arrived from Europe and Asia, so we didn’t have very many hassles at the international airport getting back home!
A fantastic trip and very happy Amy said yes to my proposal!
Last week Marcy, Amy, Chris and I went on a trip to Western Australia. It is a 4 hour plane journey from Sydney to Perth. The first thing you notice about Perth is it doesn’t appear much different from Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney, even though you’ve been on a plane for four hours, the only real difference I noticed was they aren’t very good at making coffees.
We arrived late on Friday night and went straight to the hotel. The next morning, before we hit the road for our trip to Margaret River we did a little tour of Perth. Marcy had been in town a few days for work before so she showed us “London Court” which was a simulacrum of thatched style houses in the UK. It was fun and we had a coffee.
Amy, Marcy and Chris in London Court, Perth
We then set off on our four hour drive south to Cape Lodge. Amy got given a gift voucher for free accommodation at work and Marcy also managed to get it by guessing answers to a quiz, so we were partially “competition winners” and that was the running joke for the rest of the holiday.
The prize the girls had got from work was pretty good, we got a free dinner (degustation) and a free food plate to have on another night. Cape Lodge was pretty cool it had great views over a lake and DVDs we could hire from the room.
The degustation was fun, it was partial sea food but modified for Amy as she doesn’t really like sea based food. One of the courses was crab mixed with fish sauce and some other fishy stuff which was hard to get through but altogether very nice.
Degustation at Cape Lodge
We spent most of the time going around wineries tasting wine. I don’t drink wine (it burns my throat) so I was designated driver. One place had petanque and so I occupied myself with that whilst the rest of the team drank and bought vino. We had lunch at a fantastic place called Hay Shed Hill. We sat outside and had really good service and some delicious pizzas –
Amy and Marcy at Hay Shed Hill
We got take away one night and ate it in our rooms at Cape Lodge and had a movie night watching Darjeeling Limited and Pulp Fiction back to back. I forgot how good Pulp Fiction is as a movie.
When the free stay at Cape Lodge came to an end we moved onto Smiths Beach Resort, apartments next to Smiths Beach, not too far up the road from Margaret River. We had our own kitchen which actually made a nice change from eating out as I think we were all getting a bit sick from it. It had a BBQ and we had some awesome meals, including Mexican night which was one of my favourites. We drove into the town of Dunsborough quite a few times to get bits and bobs and it had a pretty good shopping area (at least for Marcy and Amy), Chris even took timeout to get his hair cut.
Amy at Smiths Beach Resort
I went into that pool for about 25 seconds and I think I came close to getting hypothermia.
WA has the advantage of the sun setting over the water (as it faces West) so we went down to the beach for sunset. We sat on the beach and drank some beers and watched th sun as it went down over the water, Marcy took a nice picture of Amy and I –
Amy and me on Smiths Beach
On one of the days we went to Ngilgi cave which reminded Amy and I of our trip to Sardinia where we had a similar Cave experience. It was much warmer than we expected in the Cave so pullovers weren’t necessary –
Chris, Marcy, Amy and I in the Ngilgi Cave
Next stop on our tour of WA was one night at the Quay West resort near Eagle Bay. We took a wrong turn one day and ended up down there stumbling across the resort and the amazingly blue waters of Eagle Bay. Here’s Amy and me with the sea (the water was pretty cold but not too bad once you were in, I went for a swim with Chris the next day, just to say I’ve been in the Indian Ocean).
Amy and Me at Eagle Bay – Water really was this colour!
We stayed at the Quay West and had dinner there, Chris told the waitress how good the service had been on our trip to WA which really put her on edge I think!
The next day we headed back to Perth but not before stopping off at the Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle for lunch. Fremantle is a cool little town we made a quick stop on the way down and decided we had to go back again on the way back.
When we got back to Perth we had a booking at a Ha-Lu a Japanese restaurant but before we hit that I went over to visit Charmaine, someone I used to work with in London who has just had a little baby Tom –
Charmaine with Baby Tom
The next morning we had breakfast/lunch at Subiaco, a little town of Perth and then went to the Casino (which was a wasted trip because of dress code restrictions). The flight back was only 3.5 hours thanks to the jet stream.
An awesome holiday and great to spend it with Marcy and Chris as well thanks guys!
So this weekend we celebrated my 30th birthday. I’ll do a proper blog entry about it soon but here’s the video of the awesome time I (we) had –
Scroll left to right to see full image.