Rotorua

There’s alot to do in Rotorua but only have time for very few. Check out more at http://www.rotoruanz.com/

Rainbrow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park

A first stop in Rotorua! We just want to see some Kiwi and animals! ^^

Location:

192 Fairy Springs Road
Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015, New Zealand

Tel: +64 07 350 0440

 

There are 2 parrots that says “hello” to you!

Kiwi “encounter” section

The above are all replicas of the real Kiwi. We aren’t allowed to take photos of the real Kiwi which are in the dark room. There are night animals and are brought out to the field only at night. So, unless you return at night (return trips are included in the admission fee with no extra charges), otherwise the dark-room Kiwis are those you will see.

Additional fun: The playground and Big Splash!

Playground

Unlimited ride of the Big Splash!

Dinner in Rotorua

The most restaurants or diners you can find in Rotorua is at Tutanekai Street.

Mac’s Steaks

Well-known in Rotorua for its best beef experience! A place that I would too recommend.

Location:
1110 Tutanekai Street  Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Tel: +64 07 347 9270

Website:
http://www.macssteaks.co.nz/

Hours: Everyday 11:30 – 14:00, 17:30 – 22:30

This place has been awarded every year since 2006 for its beef and lamb! Seriously, with such recognition, don’t you think it’s a must-try? We did try the various meats.

Poached Salmon Steak (NZD36.50)
A good slice of salmon fillet rested on parmesan risotto. The salmon is quite good.

Beer Battered Fish and Chips (NZD28.20)
The battered is tastier than the Auckland’s one. The fish also taste better. What’s with the potato in New Zealand? They are good!

Portobello and Kikorangi Blue Prime Eye Fillet (180gm NZD38.50)
This dish has bacon, potatos, mushrooms and beef on the plate. The bacon is a little hard and the potato is just normal but you won’t complaint about it after you tried the Portobello mushroom and the beef with a little dip on the sauce. We ordered it medium but I prefer it to be a little more “bloody” to give it a little more juiciness.

Kiwifruit Marinated Lamp Rump (NZD35.50)
Lamb  ordered as medium well is good. It’s fresh and juicy that has no strong “lamb” smell. Honey roasted pumpkin and kumara are delicious too.

New Zealand’s Prime Hereford Eye Fillet (NZD38.50)
The beef is just good, accompanied with kumara crisp and roasted vegetables with manuka honey sauce.

While you are here, I also recommend that you leave some space in your stomach for desserts. You will miss them even after you left the restaurant.

Chocolate Dream (NZD13.80)
If you’re a chocolate lover, you will definitely love this. It’s so chocolatety that you feel like you’re eating chocolate bar. For me, it’s a little too sweet.

White Chocolate and Bailey’s Creme Brulee (NZD13.80)
This is the best creme brulee I’ve taken so far. The creme taste is strong with dairy which I love. It’s just that the sugar crust is a little too thick but yet not too sweet! Lovely dessert that I cannot stop eating even no matter how full you are from the main dish.

Blueberry and Ricotta Tart (NZD13.80)
If you’re going to order the above 2 desserts, don’t order this together. The stronger tastes of the earlier desserts will cover the flavour on this tart. It’s still nice if it’s being eaten on its own but I think it would be better with a little zesp of lemon into the tart will bring out the appetite for this dessert.

Accomodation: Malfroy Motor Lodge

Location:
51 Malfroy Road  Victoria, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Tel: +64 07 346 8053

Website:
http://www.malfroymotorlodge.co.nz/

Price range: ~NZD45-50 per person (free limited internet usage available)

As Rotorua is famous for its geothermal mineral pool, to save some money, this place has its own mineral pool at around 41 degree celcius and a hot water pool at around 37 degree celcius. It’s a good place to dip and relax, especially during winter. ^^

You can book direct with the host but do remember to check for offers at tripadvisor or some other booking websites before making any reservations.

Te Whakarewarewa, The Living Thermal Village

This is a village with existing residentials locating above a landscape of erupting geothermal activity, hot thermal springs and bubbling hot pools.

Location:
17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa Village, Rotorua, New Zealand
Tel: +64 7 349 6463
Website:
Admission: NZD30 (inclusive of a tour and Maori cultural performance)
The tour brings you around the village to introduce to you what each of the pools are usually used for and looking at the natural thermal activities.
The village looks like it’s on fire but they are the thermal from the earth

Thermal “microwave”

Ancestral Meeting House

Pohutu geyser

Boiling mud pool

Some photos of the Maori cultural performance

Hangi lunch at the thermal village

Hangi means food cooked in the ground or an earth oven. The lunch is only served daily from 12:00 – 14:00.

Hangi Pie Meal (NZD18.50)
A pie consist of chicken, beef, kumara, carrots, etc. is delicious. The corn is sweet. You would want another!
 

Full Hangi Meal (NZD31)
Chicken, potato, kumara, corn, etc. The chicken is a little too dry for my taste. You would need more sauce to enjoy the meat.

Steamed pudding (come with each meal)
This is a sweet dessert with cocktail fruits. It’s rather nice but would be too full to finish after the main.

The Fish & Chip Shop

A shop recommended by Rotorua motel’s host, Ron. This shop is famous for its homemade beer batter.
 

Location:
49, Lake Road, Rotorua, New Zealand

Tel: +64 7 343 7400

Hours:
Mon – Wed 11:00 – 19:30
Thurs – Sun 11:00 – 20:00

They have quite a range of things to eat, even the selection of type of fish for your fish & chips but of course would depend on what type of fish they have in store for you to choose from. However, there are limited seating place but you can always just take-away.


This is a set of 10 beer battered fish, 10 crabsticks and $10 fries for NZD50. The fish is really nice and crispy but I think if it’s fried a little longer, it’s better! The fries are good. Seriously, is it the potatoes in New Zealand are better? The crabstick is just so-so.

They have many different types of sauces that you need to buy them at NZD1-1.50 per sauce.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

 

Location:
39 Waitomo Caves Road  RD 7, Waitomo Caves, Otorohanga 3977, New Zealand
Tel: +64 07 878 8227

Website:
http://www.waitomo.com/waitomo-glowworm-caves.aspx

Hours: Everyday 09:00 – 17:00

Admission: NZD48 per person (only glowworm caves). There are also other caves combo at different prices.

We are not allowed to take any photos of the glowworm while in the cave. With any kinds of lighting, we are not able to see the worms glow. It would not look as nice as the picture below but it’s a magnificent wonder of the living world, just like looking at stars inside a cave. You can appreciate more of it watching the documentary done by National Geographic understanding more of glowworms upclose.

Picture source: Waitomo caves website

Auckland

This was what we can do when we arrived late evening in Auckland, left us only time to have a dinner and a small walk around town.

The Ferry Building

Built in 1912, this building serves as the centrepiece of harbour activities in Auckland and it is celebrating is 100th year this year, while a partial of it is being refurbished.

Harbourside seafood bar and grill

Located inside the Ferry Building with a nice harbour view but due to rainy cold weather, we are not allowed to sit outside. So, no harbour view to enjoy during dinner.

Location:
Ferry Building Level 1/99 Quay Street  Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Tel: +64 09 307 0556

Website:
http://www.harboursiderestaurant.co.nz/

Hours: 7 days from 11:30am. Continuous service all day.
Open Public Holidays, except Christmas Day.

The “peeping” view of the harbour from inside the restaurant

Bluff Oysters (1 dozen NZD50)
A well-known oyster of South of New Zealand, we thought we could try it, although it was no longer in season. *Fingers crossed* but … the freshness is better than Malaysia / Singapore but not as good as Sydney’s Fish Market.

Seafood Paella (NZD39.50)
A little spicy rice cooked with mussels, prawn, fish, etc. It’s a mexican-taste rice. The mussels are good, the others are just alright.

Seafood Linguini (Entree: NZD24; Main: NZD35)
It’s rather nice with tomato based pasta with mussels, prawns, fish and scallops. The mussels are most fresh among them.

On the month that we were there, they had a promotion of 2 course meal for NZD45 or 3 course meal for NZD55 with appetiser, main and dessert choices to choose from.

Crisp Fried Squid (one of the appetiser)
Yes, it’s crispy but I think the taste of the flour is less fragrant as compared to those typical fried calamari but not too bad.

Pan Fried Market Fish (one of the main)
We didn’t know what type of fish were served and waited for the surprise. It is a surprised when served. It’s a small little piece of fish (still don’t know the name) with not much taste. You would want to add on some sauce to increase your enjoyment of the fish. If you have a big appetite, this is definitely not enough for you.

Fish and chips (one of the main)
The fish is not as fresh as I expected it to be. It has a little “powdery” texture on the tongue. Still edible but not fantastic. I like the fries though. It’s “potato-ish” enough for me.

Pear & Walnut Pudding (one of the dessert)
The best dish served out of all our choices. It’s a sweet cake pudding topped with cooked pear, maple syrup and cream. It’s really good, not too sweet for my taste. You’ll love it if you have sweet tooth.

Viaduct Harbour

Less than 10 minutes slow walk to the right of the Ferry Building, was a commercial harbour many years ago but now resides many restaurants and residentials. It’s a very nice night view of Auckland.

For more info, visit http://www.viaduct.co.nz/

Skytower

A visible icon of Auckland at nearly everywhere you stand in Auckland city. With the height of 328m, you can have a great view of Auckland city at the top or gamble your night away at the Skycity Casino below.

For more info, visit http://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/Attractions/Skytower.html

ACCOMODATION: Bianco off Queen

About 10-20 minutes walk to the main attractions of Auckland, this is quite a comfortable and convenient service apartment to stay.

Location:
2 White Street  Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Tel: +64 09 975 9500

Website:
http://www.vrhotels.co.nz/hotels/auckland-city/bianco-off-queen

Price range: ~NZD40-50 per person (includes free internet usage and breakfast – milk, yogurt, fruit, muffin, and muesli bar)

It’s cheaper to book through www.booking.com or check tripadvisor webpage for any offers before making any reservations.

Embarked at New Zealand

We arrived Christchurch and would need to take Air New Zealand to Auckland at about NZD90.

Air New Zealand was so advanced with all DIY check-in inclusive of boarding pass and luggage tag up to bag drop. Just follow the instructions or ask the Air NZ staffs nearby.

 

When you are in New Zealand, it’s important to visit brochure stands for catalogues or magazines for visitors, at airports, some of the attractions or hotels, as there would be introductions and most importantly, discount vouchers to use! Either that or visit the i-Site (visitor information centre) for these brochures with discount vouchers!

Can’t stop connecting to the outside world? Don’t wish to keep looking for wifi spot? You can consider getting a prepaid simcard at the airport or at town. We got it from Vodafone which has the widest coverage in New Zealand, whether it’s from direct 3G station or extended 3G signals, while there are 2 other operators. It’s NZD30 for 50 mins call, 5,000 test messages and 300MB data. It’s enough for my 12 days trip for facebook-ing, google mapping, checking information, and whatsapping. Alternatively, they have a package with 2GB data at NZD75. It comes in micro and regular simcard size!

If you’re not picking up your rental car from those famous car rental companies like Hertz, Budget, etc. (where their counters are easily spotted inside the airport), you may be asked to take a shuttle to their office located 5 minutes from the airport. You must check your confirmation letter to see where they said to take the shuttle or call the office or locate the below sign outside the airport and wait for 5-10 minutes.

Seoul, South Korea – Getting around

Travelling from Incheon Airport to Seoul City

If it’s your first time to Seoul and wondering how to reach the city cheaply, you can take the airport bus. Find airport express bus counter after exiting from customs declaration and before getting out of the terminal. I took mine at KRW9,000, from Incheon Airport to Shinsegae Department Store (Times Square). The trip took around 1.5 hours with a rather slow and safe bus driver. 

Being in a country of foreign language, it’s important to know your location and destination. Remember to take picture of the bus information stand at the bus stop stated on your ticket. The bus will announce every next station that they are stopping but does not stop if no one rings the bell or stood up. With this picture, you can refer to the bus stop point to know how many station more to alight at your station. Don’t fall asleep unless you are certain that it’s a long trip!

You can leave your luggage at the bottom of the bus and you will be given a luggage number tag to identify your luggage. So you don’t need to worry about other people taking your luggage.

Subway travel card

If you want to travel the cute way, go to Family Mart to buy cute top-up travel card for KRW8,000 (non-refundable). It will not be expired and if not used, can be treated as souvenier or accessories. It’s sold as Hello Kitty, Rilakuma, and Angry Bird. It also contain a Swarovski’s cut crystal.

Otherwise, go for the traditional single journey card or day passes. We took the single journey pass which you can only buy from machines with KRW500 refundable deposit.

Getting around with taxi

If you’re carrying too much or legs too numbed from long walks, you may consider taking a taxi. The normal sedan taxi fare starts at KRW2,400 for first 2 kms and adds KRW100 for every subsequent 144 meters. You may first estimate the fare based on google map’s estimated km.

Generally, it’s around the same price as Singapore. If you have friends to share, why not?

Myeongdong 명동 (明洞)

This is a one of Seoul’s main shopping area. What best to shop here? Mainly facial products, cosmetics, and accessories. Most of the Korean facial product brands you need, you will get it from this place.

To get here by subway: Myeongdong Station (Line 4), Exit 6, Turn left.

You don’t need to worry if you can speak Chinese. Most salesgirls knows Chinese.

Note: Even if you enter to the 2 different shop of the same brand, you may get different promotions. Some shops give better promotion than others and you can negotiate for more free samples at some shops.

Dongdaemun 동대문 (东大門)

A place for clothes and accessories shopping. They are all in many floors of buildings, such as Doota, APM, and Migliore, all on the same road. It seems that Migliore’s prices are lower than the rest of the complexes. The prices that they quote can still be bargained lower by KRW2,000 to maybe half of the initial quoted price. I was warned, bargain only if you’re interested to buy. You won’t want their faces or Korean language to spoil your day.

To get here by subway: Dongdaemun History & Cultural Park (Line 2, 4, or 5), Exit 13 or 14.

General operating hours: 10:30 – 04:30 (yes, 04:30 a.m.) but varies among different complexes.

Gyeongbokgung Palace 

A royal palace located in north of Seoul, South Korea. One of the main attraction of Seoul. There is also a museum in the Palace that explains Seoul’s history.

To get here by subway: Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3)

Looking around…

Insa-dong 인사동

This place is known as cultural street where you can see many shops selling antiques and artworks. Most of all are Korean souvenirs. You can also find traditional Korean food.

To get her by subway: Anguk Station (Line 3)

Cheonggyecheon 청계천

This is a man-made river of 8.4km long in Seoul city. It’s a place that you can sit down and relax a little water and green scenery in the middle of high rise office buildings.

You will pass by it if you walk from Insadong to Myeongdong.

Gangnam Underground Shopping Arcade (Gangnam jihasang-ga) 강남지하상가

One of the underground shopping. It’s newly refurbished with air-conditioned for comfortable shopping. Here they sell many of clothes (men, women, kids), shoes, to household items, garden items, etc. You can spend more than half a day here.

I prefer this place to Dongdaemun as the prices quote are already at a lower price with similar range of varieties. You will get your item at better price without the need to bargain alot.

To get here by subway: Express Bus Terminal Station (Line 3, 7 or 9)

Gwanghwamun 광화문 (光化門)

Gwanghwamun is the main and largest gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place also exhibits history of King Sejong, a King who created Korean language characters.

To get here by subway: Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5)

It’s free to walk around the square but you may also enter the King Sejong’s museum below his statue.

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 – 22:30; Closed on Monday.

Admission fee: Free

On your way to the square, you will see this cute Haechi, a symbol of Seoul. You can buy its soft toys and souvenirs from the shop.

Utopia Spa 유토피아 스파 

A 24 hours spa place where you can massage, sauna, watch tv, do nothing, sleep, etc.

Location:
187-3 Guro-dong Guro-gu, Seoul
(Entrance at B1, just follow the sign) 

Tel: +82 2 839 6800

http://utopiaspa.co.kr/ (Korean only)

Subway: Guro Digital Complex Station (Line 2), Exit 2