This was originally posted on 10th May 2008 on dtracorp.com. For lack of regular new content, I’m going back and grabbing some stuff that has gone missing since the demise of dtracorp.com to repost here. I don’t think that I will follow any pattern, most likely will just be looking for some cool stuff and post it chronologically each Thursday. I’ll only post stuff that I can still find the pictures for, which means my original trip to NZ did not make the cut (unless I can find them again). I’ll also be re-formatting slightly and fixing up any grammatical errors or (mostly lower case everything text) to suit the new theme.
We arrived in Mexico City at around 6am on a Sunday, and headed for the hostel straight away (I’ll post reviews on transport, accommodation, food and drinks as separate items when I have finished doing each region). we were able to get three beds in a dorm, two other people were sleeping when we got there. we slept straight away, to try and catch up a bit, and eventually around 2pm, we finally got out and about around the zocalo. Sunday is probably the busiest day in town, as there were lots of people around, and stuff going on everywhere.
We were in Mexico City from Sunday till Thursday morning, so four full days (although Sunday was pretty much a write off). with our lonely planet and rough guides books handy, we managed to wander around different parts of the city, we were staying in the historical centre of town, so lots to see there. the main sights in the city that we saw were:
http://www.youtube.com/v/2z5g4Ttlbz8 (I’ll see if I can embed the video at some point)
Just a short video of the wrestlers (lucha libres) going at it, it was pretty funny. It’s pretty chaotic, and you have to wonder if there is a script at all. We saw these guys on a tour provided by some guy that was looking for tourists at the hostel :D.
The one thing we did notice was that there are basically cops at every corner, either directing traffic, or doing nothing :D. In the Zocalo, there were a few dozen cadets just messing around doing nothing every day. there were also a lot fewer people speaking english than I expected :(, this was unfortunate, as it did affect the holiday a bit, I’ll make sure that I am much better prepared on future trips.
The big thing we saw was out of town, we got a bus out to see Teotihuacan, the ancient Mexican city, home of two beautiful pyramids, and several other magnificent ruins. It’s a massive site, and took us about five hours to cover it all, there weren’t as many tourists as I expected (which was a good thing). The refreshing feeling at the top of the pyramid of the sun is so awesome. Unfortunately, the pyramid of the moon could not be climbed the whole way, but despite that, the view was still good. it was a warm day, not overly hot, but walking around a big site like that will make you sweat. A gentle breeze blows at the top of the pyramid of the sun, making it extremely tranquil and pleasant. definitely a must visit location, lots of pictures to post, although probably not as many good ones as I hoped.
The weather was very pleasant, probably mid to high 20’s during the day, and cooling down to low teens (or cooler) over night. Smog and haze is a problem though, only one morning after it rained the previous night was the sky reasonably clear, otherwise, you’ll most likely see hazy blue or overcast skies. The only time I ever felt vulnerable in Mexico City, was once on a packed metro train with little breathing room, other than that, the city was extremely pleasant, and the people no different (in terms of attitude towards others) from any other place I’ve been. A great experience, and would definitely want to go back sometime and see more of the city and it’s surrounds.
Not sure why the picture is so hazy, but there was a friendly protest going on near the zocalo the day we came in, police were out and about (more than usual) and people were chanting.
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We had some good weather to end our trip, and for the first of these nice days, we headed for Arrowtown, just a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. It’s an historic gold mining town and is known for its spectacular Autumn colours. There are also a lot of little shops to keep the ladies interested, as well as a museum where you can learn about the history of the area. There are a few walking trails out the back of the town where you can really enjoy the Autumn colours, and I guess it can be called a river, although it’s quite shallow (I wouldn’t cross it in sneakers though).
Before doing anything, we made our way to The Chop Shop for breakfast since Emmy didn’t have anything and us boyd only had some corn flakes earlier. It was okay, but nothing special, I had scrambled eggs, Emmy had the special corn fritters (spicy caramel was a bit sweet still), and Oscar had some kind of super ridiculously sweet babycino. I’d already had a bit for breakfast so I just went for something simple so as not to spoil my appetite for lunch.
The museum is really quite interesting (especially for me being of Chinese descent), I think it’s built into an original town building and you can see a lot of the historical tools that were used, as well as learn about the Chinese “invasion” that occurred during the gold rush. That was our morning, looking at some shops and then the museum.
We had lunch at the Arrowtown bakery (as a money saving move), turned out to be a good idea as the food was reasonably priced and tasty. I had the mince and cheese pie (pie, peas, potato deal) that comes with peas and mashed potatoes with gravy. It wasn’t my first choice but they seemed to be having a shortage at the time. After that, it was time to enjoy some Autumn colours, along the way we wandered through the historic Chinese settlement (restored) to see how these gold seekers lived, must’ve been hard that’s for sure.
We wandered back along the trail and along the river but turned out that we were on the wrong side of the stream, so we couldn’t get back to the car park without getting our feet wet. So we had to stroll back and around the stream before we could head off.
It was a bit too late to visit Cromwell as I had originally thought might be possible, so instead we stopped by Lake Hayes and then again at one of the stopping points along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to shoot the Remarkables at sunset. Lake Hayes was a bit random, but we were driving back to Queenstown and drove past this lake, and the sun was shining, and the clouds were whisping (?), so I decided that it might be worthwhile, turns out it was, the mountains around the lake make for some breathtaking views, and it’s only 15 minutes from Queenstown on the way back from Arrowtown.
We finished off the day by having dinner at Bombay Palace which is down the bottom of the main road (Shotover St) clustered with a few other Indian restaurants. It’s a chain (since we saw one in Wanaka too), and it was the only Indian restaurant in that section that didn’t have a tout out the front. Won us over already (also had more people eating than the other places), I had the lamb vindaloo, and Emmy had the chicken tikka masala (so that Oscar could have some if he felt like it).
I was happy with mine, ordered it hot (not Indian hot) and it was just the right spice level, flavour was good (comparable to Tandoori Den LOL) and the lamb was tender. The service was good and the restaurant comfortable, so two thumbs up from me.
Next up, we visit Wanaka.
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Let’s be clear, we didn’t do a lot in Tokyo, mostly shopping and eating, we had a quick ride to Odaiba marine park (at night) and attended a tea ceremony class, but otherwise the only tourist thing we did of any value was visit the Ghibli Museum. We originally planned to visit Kamakura for a day trip but after all of the travelling we’d done up to this point we thought better of it. This was almost an absolute disaster, we didn’t buy the tickets online from Australia (they were already sold out for the time we were going) so we managed to ask one of Emmy’s friends who lives in Tokyo to help us buy a couple tickets. But it turns out that the museum is quite strict on people buying tickets and requiring identification to match the purchaser of the tickets (to reduce scalping).
After asking us a few times and realising that it was going to be nigh impossible to gather the necessary identification the security staff was kind enough to let us through anyway (we really had no idea), it was probably fortunate that Oscar was there, he probably took pity on us because of that.
You can’t take any pictures inside the museum, which is quite small (three levels), so all you can do really, is enjoy the museum. It’s full of pictures and little models, and elaborate re-creations of Miyazaki’s desk (I’m guessing), among other things. Two exhibits in the first room (full of models and some movie projector type things) were quite the standouts.
There was a wall with a bunch of windows into tiny rooms, each room has little models of desks and people at work (I presume of Ghibli employees), they were very intricate and detailed which made them very nice to look at. The other great thing in that first room was the animated model, I don’t even know how to describe it, basically it’s a wheel with many models of the cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro, that spins around at high speed and then combined with lighting effects you can see how the animation works. It’s sort of like stop motion, very cool.
Another highlight was the short movie that was screened in the Saturn theatre (entry comes with a ticket to the movie) which is a ten minute film that has three screenings per hour (I think). Apparently it is an original Ghibli animation that is not screened anywhere else. I’m not sure of the title of the short we watched but it had a dog in it called Toro (or Koro) and it was about how he got lost but managed to find his way back home. It was Oscar’s first time in a movie theatre and I’m not sure if he actually understood what was happening, but he pretty much lost it when the dog was hit by a bicycle, he started wailing but managed to regain his composure and continue watching pretty quickly. He cried a couple more times during the film but only very briefly so I don’t think it distracted anyone, but we can only assume that he understood what was going on and felt great empathy with the puppy.
The other highlight for me was the big cat bus (kids 12 and under only) that kids can climb and jump on to their heart’s content, for about five minutes. Oscar was by far the smallest one in his group (all the others were probably between 4-10 years old) and he was quite nervous (but also excited). He would wait until the bigger kids were all jumping on the other side of the bus and then give the cat a big cuddle, he managed to climb into the bus very briefly and also kissed one of the rats up on the cat’s head, this was for some reason an extremely emotional thing for myself and Emmy and definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
There’s a stall that sells milk flavoured iced cream (not vanilla, so I guess it’s the same as vanilla but without the vanilla flavouring) and some drinks, while the cafe is quite busy and has its own undercover waiting area, we weren’t going to wait for that.
There’s the robot from Laputa on top of the museum and actually a nice park just next to the museum as well, we waited there as we were about thirty minutes earlier than our entry time. The museum is small but we managed to spend about two and a half hours there wandering around, it’s interesting and certainly worth a look if you’re a Miyazaki or Ghibli fan, or even just a fan of animation or film.
Keep your eyes peeled though because there are many displays that are very small and intricate that you could easily miss.
It’s about a twenty minute train ride from Shinjuku and then a 5-10 minute bus ride from Mitaka station, there is a shuttle bus that takes you right to the entrance. For lack of anything else interesting, my next post will include the three other touristy things we did, visit Odaiba marine Park (very quickly for twenty minutes or so), attend a tea ceremony class, and a visit to Shinjuku Gyoen (a large park). And then I’ll do some foodie posts and accommodation stuff to conclude this trip, and start dreaming of the next.
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