North Island, New Zealand

Kia Ora (hello,welcome, goodbye, have a safe journey)

I’ve just come back from my 10 day road trip from Wellington to Auckland and thought I would share my entire itinerary here. I definitely could have spent longer at each destination due to the many hikes so i’ll be back!

Day 1: Arrived in Wellington and picked up our JUCY car rental from the airport to drive ourselves to the city centre not far away. Climb up Mount Victoria for a 360 degree view of the city and enjoy the play area there too (definitely adult friendly). Take the Wellington cable car up and walk back down to the city through the Botanic Gardens. AirBnB 120 The Terrace.

Day 2: Drive from Wellington to Cape Palliser where you will see a large seal population along the sea front near the light house. Climb the steep steps to reach the lighthouse and enjoy the views. Return up the road to the start of the Pinnacles hike (funky rock formations from Lord of the Rings). Drive to Whanganui and visit the near by beach for sunset. Accom: Whanganui Backpackers (a motel).

Day 3: Visit Whanganui National Park for the Atene Viewpoint Walk. Another highly recommended option which we didn’t do is the ‘Bridge to nowhere’. Then drive to Tongariro National Park for plenty of hike options! We did the 2h Taranaki falls loop track from Whakapapa Village (the largest ski area). If you have a full day, definitely do the Tongariro Alpine track which takes around 8hours. This was my favourite park out of all the hikes I did so I definitely want to come back to do it one day. Have dinner in Taupo and watch sunset by the lake. Accom: A Plus Samurai Lodge Backpackers (not the cleanest but it’ll do for the hike day)

Day 4: Drive to Taupo lake view point before heading to Wai O Tapu geothermal pools and geysers. The entire highway passes thermal pools so you’ll see plenty of steam along the way as you drive. Wai O Tapu is the most well known and the lady Knox geyser show starts at 10:15am so don’t miss that. Before heading to Rotorua, stop by the blue and green lake viewing point and lake Tarawera viewpoint, they are along the way. When in Rotorua, definitely try out luging! We then did the Maori village cultural show and dinner, and stayed the night in Rotorua Motel.


Day 5: Drive from Rotorua to Mount Maunganui and hike up of course! Then drive to Coromandel area for Ha Hei beach, walk to Cathedral Cove and then hot water beach (visit during low tide only). Stayed the night in Coromandel in the most amazing cabin ever (find Viv on AirBnB 75 Harbour View Road). I would go back to Coromandel just to stay in this accommodation again.


Day 6: Drive to Hobbiton  for the tour and then to Hamilton, stopping by the massive garden they have created. You could spend a whole day here if you wanted, appreciating the design and  gardens of the world. AirBnB 80 Beerescourt Road Suite (really cozy accom again)

Day 7: Drive to Waitomo Glow worm caves (no photos allowed) for the short tour then to Auckland, stopping by Mt Eden crater before dropping off the car. This was my favourite drive day in terms of awesome views along the way, other than the Tongariro national park drive day. Accom for the next three nights: Grand Central apartments (15min walk to city centre)
IMG_5068
Day 8: Walked Auckland’s main high street: Queen street and competed in Battle of the Year at night. Didn’t do much this day due to the competition.

Day 9: Ferry to Rangitoto volcanic island for the summit hike. There are specific ferry times so make sure you pre-book for the trip there and know when the last ferry is to get back! 36NZD return.


Day 10: Chill day, walked the city and played an escape room before flying back to Sydney. Try Giapo ice cream!

My first legit road trip and I loved driving those country side roads  I would do it all over again.

 

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink.
  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan!
  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop.
  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert.
  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea in Gong Guan night market with the delicious Gua Bao (pork bao) stall opposite and also try the 2h buffet style Ma La hotpot!

    11781597_10154305216023849_3762681800303357996_n13533200_10155267507648849_4735290308080891108_n

  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on!
  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally.
  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery
  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
    13584882_10155278470608849_380501687499313859_o
    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

    11717555_10154284640648849_3713338922421924412_o
    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.

North Wales, United Kingdom

What brought me to North Wales for the first time was my graduate Midnight Snowdon hike challenge in support of Alzheimer’s Society. sixteen graduates from GVA set off to conquer Mt Snowdon over night and succeeded in under 4.5 hours! I then extended my trip to tour around myself, first time traveling solo, and I loved it.

Note: Expect North Wales to rain and have grey skies. I was only lucky in Caernarfon!

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Visit Llanberis and climb Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 metres above sea level, and the highest point in the British Isles south of the Scottish Highlands. 

  2. Visit Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales. Specifically, visit Menai bridge on the way to Beaumaris famous for its castle, coast and pastel coloured houses. Also try Beau’s tea shop, it has such beautiful decor. 

     

  3. From Beaumaris, take a ferry to visit Puffin island and Trwyn Du light house, or Black Point which dates from 1838, and guided sailors through the passage between Penmon and Puffin Island.19397173_10156642004533849_8713041693481194888_n19247571_10156642002813849_3895077496144114257_n
  4. Visit Caernarfon Castle, a medieval fortress on the eastern shore of the Menai Strait, opposite the Isle of Anglesey19424495_10156642698848849_7503409698617401662_n19424194_10156642693573849_5561285517140394384_n
  5. Visit Llandudno a seaside resort, town and community. Make sure you catch the Great Orme tramway to visit the Great Orme, a prominent limestone headland on the north coast of Wales. You can even go further via a cable car but I didn’t have good enough weather to bother with this.19399300_10156646339803849_732351528926752664_n19430060_10156646339543849_8260118457623678123_n19400174_10156646339388849_4854750953815478246_nOther: I used Bangor as my base and stayed at a wonderful hotel called Bangor Garden hotel. This was above a cantonese restaurant,  family run so everyone was super friendly and helpful.