For our last full day in New Zealand, we went for a drive up to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road. To say that this is a fun drive would be an understatement, it winds its way up a hill to a nice lookout where you can see very far (I will post a panorama of this view in a later post). Then winds its way back down to the small town of Cardrona before making its way to Wanaka.
This is where I have to apologise because we arrived at lunch time and the sun was quite high and bright, and for some reason I decided not to take any pictures at all! So I have no pictures of the beautiful lake and the view to Mount Aspiring, honestly no idea what I was thinking (I think I was thinking we’d be back later in the evening with better light, or hopefully some clouds).
We didn’t end up doing much other than a short stroll along the lake side and lunch from a bakery. Oscar had some fun at the local playground but otherwise we didn’t really see anything locally. After lunch we went for a drive to see if there was something nice to look at, the sign at the entrance to town said Glendhu Bay, so we went in that direction hoping for something nice. We drove past Roys Peak which was really busy, looked like a good walk (and now that I googled it, looks like something to do in future for sure).
We got to Glendhu Bay but didn’t see much other than a lot of camper vans. There was a sign that went off road to Motatipu Gorge so we thought, let’s just drive up there and see what it is.
As soon as we turned off the main road it became gravel, and then dirt road, so the 6km drive ended up taking about 20 minutes to reach the end of the road. There’s a walking track there that follows the river, but we just went down and had a little look before leaving and driving back to Queenstown. It’s funny, this was a bit of a random venture and I realised once we got out of the car that I came to this same place ten years ago and probably came to the same conclusion then. At least this time I had a camera with more functions allowing me to take a picture that I could be happy with.
[Update]: Forgot to mention that there are some seriously nasty mosquitoes along this river/stream, my top was not covering my back near my waist, and I ended up with four or five bites on my back, plus two more on my wrist. They were really itchy bites too, damn, it wasn’t that warm, but they must be alpine mozzies or something.
So back to Queenstown but this time rather than going over the Crown Range Road again we went the other way via Cromwell. We stopped at Lake Dunstan which has a beautiful mirror effect (if the water is still enough) but it was a bit late by the time I was finished there so we carried on back to Queenstown from there. We also stopped at the Roaring Meg lookout which I might post a picture of in a later post (HDR). It was not the nicest drive back to Queenstown from there as the sun was setting and pretty much blinding us although driving through that canyon is quite cool.
So for our last proper meal in Queenstown we went with seafood, and Fishbone was our choice. It’s quite expensive if you’re just after fish and chips so probably not the place to go for that, but there was plenty of variety for seafood. Emmy was really after mussels so she ended up going for the fish stew, and I went with one of the recommended specials, lemon sole.
My fish was quite good, the lemon giving it a good little zest, the fish stew came with some nice crusty bread, and I’m sure it was quite good too. Oscar was getting to be a real pain at dinner times by this time of the trip so we pretty much ended up getting out as quickly as possible. I’d recommend this place for seafood if you get that craving in Queenstown. Our last day in Queenstown next, where we didn’t do a lot, but still managed to try out a few functions on my camera.
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All right, on to the next part of our journey, after about a week in Saigon (I’ll get to that in the next post), we flew out to Phu Quoc, an island paradise to the southwest of Vietnams mainland, it’s actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but I guess the poor Cambodians lost that one too. It’s a short flight, probably less than an hour, and from the airport we got a taxi to our hotel, four star Famiana Beach Resort, which is next door to five star Salinda Resort (where I wanted to stay). We decided to stay in this area as it was not too far from the city centre of Duong Dong which is the main city on the island, we just didn’t want to be anywhere too remote. The plan was basically to relax, and not do too much, maybe do one day of touring, and two days of chilling by the beach, we had three nights there in total.
The private hotel beach was very nice, and was probably the highlight of the trip, especially since taking little Oscar around makes things a little difficult, he also decided that he was in a tantrum throwing mood most of the time there, so that was fun. The sea waters were quite calm and the beach clean, the sand nice and soft under foot, and if the waves were too powerful (lol), then the hotel had a nice swimming pool to relax in as well. I thought that the hotel was good, breakfast buffet was solid and well rounded, and service quite diligent, emmy didn’t think that the “Resort” title was justified though.
For our day trip, we just jumped on a stock standard south island tour, which visited a pearl farm (boring), a buddhist temple of some description, Sao Beach (whether it was any better than our hotel beach, I’m not sure), a Prisoner of War camp (called Coconut Tree Prison), and a fish sauce factory – where you can buy fish sauce but apparently you can’t fly with it, so I’m not sure what the point of buying it is – before heading home a bit after lunch time. That was it for visiting stuff, I didn’t even get a tropical sunset picture, I left the room too late the one chance I had to get a tropical sunrise picture and had to settle for some boats on the horizon shots.
We were so ridiculously lazy that we ate at the hotel one lunch time, and probably across the road at the local restaurants every other time except twice where we ventured to the city centre and had crab at the crab restaurant, and another time we had dinner at a seafood restaurant (with rats running around nearby!). The food was actually quite nice generally, expensive (relatively speaking), but there’s a good variety of Vietnamese island food and regular Vietnamese food.
The Crab Restaurant was pretty hipster-y but good quality nonetheless, and one of the restaurants across the road from the hotel we ordered Canh Chua Ca (sour fish soup) and it was very nice, just like home made (which is a good thing). I didn’t really rate Phu Quoc the island that highly for things to do (although having a toddler can alter your perception), but I certainly wouldn’t complain about the food. There are probably a lot of fun things to do there if you’re not looking after a 20-month old little monster, and/or you’re not super lazy, good place to chill at least. Next up, back to Saigon to finish off our trip, our stay there was interesting to say the least.
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We had a short stop in Da Nang, just one night before heading down to Saigon, it’s really close to Hoi An, only thirty minutes drive, basically along the coast. If we had more time it would definitely have been worth paying a visit to the beach, looked like quite a nice coast line and some nice beaches as we drove past the myriad resorts. We however, were staying on the riverside so no beach for us, and we were too lazy to go to the beach anyway. We did manage to visit a big open air seafood restaurant, for lots of yummy fresh seafood, and also hired a taxi for a ride up Chessboard Point, which is a hill/mountain that provides a really nice view of the city and sea. There are also some rare endangered monkeys (pretty sure they are just macaques but who knows) that live in the mountain forests but you can only see them in the early morning apparently (we were there mid-morning). On the way back down to Da Nang, we also went past the very fancy Intercontinental Hotel (six stars!) and also visited a big Buddhist temple that has a big statue of the Guanyin, but that place wasn’t particularly great.
We stayed at Brilliant Hotel which was quite central and right next to the river, our room had a very good view of the river and several of the bridges that span the river, which light up at night and provide spectacular nightly light shows. There was a bit of a safety concern with the room as the windows could be opened (with the handles also being within reach of small children) and no real protection against such things happening. The hotel has a rooftop bar which has a pretty spectacular view of the city and is open at night for anyone to go up and snap some pictures (without the need to purchase anything). There is also a swimming pool and small gym, the pool is nice (very stuffy though) and the breakfast buffet had a pretty big selection of local and foreign dishes, pretty good all around.
We had some great food at the seafood restaurant, really fresh and tasty, loud and busy place, great atmosphere. I think if we could spend a bit more time in Da Nang we wouldn’t be disappointed. Good food, beaches, and some other touristy things nearby, I think that there were more places nearby that had nice views of the surrounds. There are a lot of pretty spectacular bridges that span the river that flows through Da Nang, and more night views of them would definitely be worth it. That’s it for this time, I won’t do two separate posts for Saigon, so next stop will be Phu Quoc, then I’ll lump all of the Saigon stuff in one post after that.
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Welcome to the monthly dtraCorp post (that’s what it seems like any way), we went to Shira Nui last week for Em’s birthday as part of what has now become an annual tradition (Japanese on Em’s birthday). Shira Nui is a sushi bar in Glen Waverley, a south eastern suburb of Melbourne, it’s widely known as a Chinese hub, but this Japanese restaurant has certainly made a name for itself. I’m not really a foodie so don’t expect me to lay on the big terms to describe the food, but I do have pictures (it was Em’s birthday so that’s my excuse) of all the dishes and can remember how most of them tasted. We had heard about omakase which is when you eat sushi with no set menu (well, probably the chef has a set menu in his head), and you sit there and wait for the chef to serve you the dishes. So we sat at the counter and waited to be served, the sushi comes out thick and fast, everyone getting the omakase gets the same stuff so you can get a preview of what you’re going to get if you so wish. Some of the sushi came with a squeeze of lemon (the chef did it, we weren’t given any) which I thought was a really good touch, I don’t think I’ve ever had that before and was thinking it would be on all the sushi or at least all the fish sushi, alas, it was not to be.
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