Month: August 2018

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound is utterly breathtaking. I was drawn to this place because it featured as a “must-do” on my world scratch-map, and because the legends of its natural beauty precede it.

Although one of the most tourist-flogged natural wonders in New Zealand, Milford Sound remains serene. The Sound is majestic grandeur. It towers up all around you, encompasses you, surrounds you. All is quiet as ancient forces push the very earth upwards and forwards and create chasms and forests. It was formed by a glacier, which technically makes it a fjord, but nonetheless humbling.

Just out of Te Anau, Milford Sound is a fair ways out of Queenstown. Make the drive if you can, otherwise catch a day tour from Queenstown (keep in mind a return trip from Queenstown will be about 12hours).

Perks of self-driving: you can manage your pit stops through the national park, stop off at the waterfalls and take time in the little shops along the way.

Perks of taking a tour: some tours offer a boat cruise through the Sound (and some cruises offer lunch). The driver will have helpful factoids about the area and will stop and secret attractions like the Kea birds. The driver knows the route as if it were the back of their hand, which is important because the roads are windy and hard to pass, especially in wet weather, which is most of the time.

Blue skies are rare at Milford Sound. I had mystical rain which amplified the waterfalls and shrouded the fjord in a solemn mist. I found it truly awe inspiring.

A boat cruise through the Sound will showcase pods of dolphins and take you out to the mouth of the Tasman Sea. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. You will be humbled, you will be inspired and you will feel connected to something larger than us, something much older.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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National Gallery of Victoria, Australia

The National Gallery of Victoria has a selection of wonderfully curated exhibitions. On the banks of the Yarra River, make your way past the mesmerizing water feature to some of the permanent fixtures or traveling features.

My friends and I had time to kill on our last day in Melbourne so we slipped inside and wandered the halls of Eastern artworks, Medieval iconography, and ancient Egyptian artefacts. The exhibitions were extensive and I was impressed to see such a diverse representation of history in the permanent exhitions of this space.

It was a wonderful way to spend our time in Melbourne and it was free to enter as well. The gallery cafe offers delicate teas and the tiniest of sweet treats. I definitely recommend scheduling afternoon tea after your visit to the gallery.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Peak Tram, HONG KONG

The Peak Tram is good fun for young and old. It’s a classic tourist venture in Hong Kong and for good reason. The Tram takes you all the way to Victoria Peak, where you can access the Peak Walk (40min round circuit with views of Victoria Harbour) Madame Tussauds, viewing platforms of the city and other retail.

The tram is popular, so expect queues. One thing they don’t advertise is that you can use your octopus card to purchase a tram ticket (the octopus card is a regular transport tap on/off card). If you don’t have one of those, they sell tickets on site.

Kids love it, and adults do too. A fun day out for everyone!

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Federation Square, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Federation Square is a great meeting place central to all things Melbourne. Directly opposite Flinders Street Station, you can access trams, trains and Yarra river cruises all within a stone’s throw. It’s a cultural hub, right on Swanston Street making it close to Degraves boutique cafĂ© shopping strip, as well as theatres and churches. Federation Square also has features of its own, with bars and restaurants, even a film and sound museum for the family.

It’s hard to avoid Federation Square when I Melbourne. You’ll find its a central hub to meet and explore.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Nanjing Road, Shanghai, CHINA

Nanjing Road is hyped up beyond compare. It’s a famous retail strip in Shanghai that leads through to The Bund and the water there.

Personally, I was underwhelmed by Nanjinglu mostly because I went to Shanghai to sightsee, rather than to shop. The outlets are impressive and offer fantastic markdowns, so bring your cash if you’re into that sort of thing.

If like me you’re not, have a stroll and see if you can find hidden gems along the way. There are handicraft shops and boutique couture.

If you’re not retail minded, however, it’s just a road that leads to the waterfront.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Lantau Island, HONG KONG

I didn’t do as much of Lantau Island as I could have, but I left feeling as if I had seen what I needed to see. This island left me with mixed feelings; I was overwhelmed by the attraction of it as a tourist trap. I was curious about the opportunity to visit a local village, but wary that it may be tainted by manufactured superficiality. I was gobsmacked by the amount of retail stores that boasts teachings of piety and self-reflections from Buddha, on commercial wares flogged at obscene prices. I was floored by the irony. And the Starbucks and the wifi. I hope that the Shaolin Monastery practiced Buddha’s ways of freedom from material possessions, but I was uninspired by the copious trinkets and wares for sale. And the fact that the 30m bronze Big Buddha was only erected for the masses in recent decades.

I’m still reeling from the contradiction of it all.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Grand Mercure Xi’an on Renmin Square, CHINA

The Grand Mercure is a fantastic hotel to stay at in Xi’an. It’s central to most of the sightseeing landmarks around the city centre and is within walking distance from the Muslim Quarter, Bell Tower and night markets.

The hotel staff spoke limited English which made transactions a little confusing; we had trouble confirming the logistics of a deposit using credit card. We also had miscommunication around how many beds were available in our room.

However, the language barriers aren’t a reflection on the service or the hotel, just keep in mind that Xi’an is less cosmopolitan than other Chinese cities like Shanghai.

We were very pleased with our room and we’re warm and comfortable through snowy winter nights. Would definitely stay here again.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.