Tag Archives: Scenery

Napier – Art Deco Capital of New Zealand

The last stop on our New Zealand trip was Napier, which is a town on the eastern coast of the North Island. After an earthquake in 1931 wiped out most of the city, they decided to rebuild it in the Art Deco style so it’s a unique and interesting town to walk around. The buildings have so much character and we really enjoyed checking them all out – many of them are in the art deco style, some were extra colorful, and all were lively and fun to admire.

Napier Collage

After walking around town a bit, we went out to see the nearby coast while the weather was nice. We quickly noticed a sign for roller blade rentals – we had recently been joking about how we wished we could try roller blading again because we both had loved it as kids. And there, right in front of us, was our chance so we went for it – it’s not every day you get the opportunity to relive your youth, right?! I have to admit, it was not as easy as I remember it being when I was little but we had a blast nonetheless and spent the afternoon roller blading along the trail by the beach!

Rollerblading in Napier

Our hotel, the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, was one of my favorite buildings – it certainly had the charm from the 1920′s on the exterior as well as the interior…I loved that they had taken efforts to preserve such a fun era! Our first night there, we ended up playing trivia in the bar below the hotel  - we formed a team with another one of the locals and had a great time! Travel Tip – We always try to find local activities to do to learn a bit more about what life is really like in those locations beyond the big touristy sights. We find it often leads to some of the more unforgettable memories from our trips. If you ask around, you can usually find some fun things to do that way, and maybe even some locals to join in!

Art Deco Masonic Hotel Collage

The next day, we rented bikes and visited many Gimblett Gravels wineries in Hawke’s Bay. The best part about this was that a lot of the wineries were small, family owned businesses, so we had a chance to talk to the owners while they explained more about their wines – it’s fun to get to know the face behind the wine so we usually ended up buying a bottle after the tasting, put it in the baskets on our bikes and continued on our journey. Some of them had great food platters, too, so we enjoyed olives, fresh breads/oils, and salami & cheeses. It was such a wonderful day! (Unfortunately we didn’t have our camera that day so we didn’t get too many pictures…we’ll just have to take more next time we go!).

Napier Wine Tasting Collage

Sadly, this brought our vacation to an end…it was such an incredible adventure! We loved every minute that we got to spend in New Zealand hope to return one day!

Air New Zealand

Tongariro Trek Triumph!

We were still enjoying the beautiful Lake Taupo area and decided to do one of the Great New Zealand Walks while we were here. These are treks that give you the chance to be among some of the country’s most impressive scenery and usually take several days to complete – while we didn’t have time to do a full one of these walks this trip, we decided to walk most of one of the trails in a one day hike – the Tongariro Crossing.

IMG_2295

People had described this hike as, the closest you can get to hiking on Mars, and I didn’t know what to make of that statement until I was there. The landscape is unlike anything I had ever seen before with all of the lava flow – it was just awesome!

DCIM100GOPRO

The main peak (seen in the 2 pictures above) we hiked past is called Mt Ngauruhoe and it was used as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings. Interesting story – the Maori Chiefs did not allow Peter Jackson to film the peak/interior of the volcano for the movies because they believe it to be sacred so they had to CG the top part. This part of the trail was nice and warm with the sun beaming down on us and lots of volcanic rocks around us – it was a great start to our full day trek!

Tongariro Start Collage

The landscapes really did seem to be out of this world – some places were so barren. Ryan couldn’t help but take a picture so it looks like he’s in the middle of nowhere.

DCIM100GOPRO

Along the trail, there was another Lord of the Rings filming spot (last one, I promise!) – the valley below was where they filmed Mordor. Can you tell by my expression I thought this was pretty cool?!

DCIM100GOPRO

At the top were some great views into one of the volcano craters – you’ll notice we’ve put our jackets on at this point – as you got closer to the top, it got chillier and much, much windier.

DCIM100GOPRO

After all the hard work of climbing to get up to the top, we started to head downhill and as soon as we did that, we had a great view of some turquoise colored pools. We ended up having lunch right next to them – a well deserved break after our few hours of hiking.

Tongariro Collage 2

We had decided to do this trek through a guided tour because you start and end in two different spots and we weren’t sure how to handle those logistics and we wanted to make sure we stayed safe as this was an active volcanic area (there was an eruption a couple of years ago – in fact, our guide, Tom,  is the one you hear calming everyone down in the video of the eruption) so we thought it would be good to have an expert close by. Being the science enthusiasts that we were, we loved walking through the volcanic area. 

Active Volcano Collage

Here is one of the craters left when the rocks went flying out during the eruption – that would have certainly been an exciting day to be hiking the trail!

DCIM100GOPRO

The last bit of the trail is certainly the easiest and the scenery changes again to be more green and there is a great view of Lake Taupo in the distance. It’s a somewhat relaxing way to end a long but wonderful day hiking.

Tongariro Crossing Lake Taupo

We had an absolute blast on our trek along the Tongariro Crossing and highly recommend it if you’re in that area in New Zealand – the scenery is unlike anything you will have likely seen and you feel accomplished after you finish! We finished our tour with some celebratory locally brewed beers!

Beers after Tongariro

 

We jumped out of a plane in New Zealand!

There is only one word to describe this experience: Awesome, absolutely awesome. It was quite possibly the most amazing adventure we have had yet – skydiving from 15,000 feet in Taupo, New Zealand! We jumped over Lake Taupo where the scenery was spectacular –  from the plane right before we jumped, we could see the eastern and western points of the North Island of New Zealand – fantastic view! It is truly hard to put into words just how great it was so I’ll let the pictures do it for me…

We headed up in the plane on our way to 15,000 feet on an absolutely beautiful day! Part of the way up, they had us put on oxygen masks (that’s how high up we were going) but it was all smiles from both of us…

IMG_0049_cropped

 When it’s your turn, they have you sit down at the very edge of the door of the plane with your feet dangling outside…there’s no way to go but down from here…

Ready to JumpAnd down you go…Ryan jumped first and his guy did a barrel roll right out of the plane…

Ryan Skydive Collage Roll 1

There was a lot more screaming when I exited the plane…the free fall feeling was crazy!

IMG_0011

Don’t worry, we got to smiles eventually during the free fall…

IMG_0022_cropped

This was my favorite picture – it was such a rush! Check out the plane from over my shoulder! I was having a blast! I promise those are screams of pure joy! IMG_0030Ryan was equally having a great time during his fall…

IMG_0073

IMG_0128

The views the whole time were absolutely stunning – what a remarkable place to do our first sky dive!

Erin Skydive Collage 1

Erin’s Skydive

Ryan Skydive Collage

Ryan’s Skydive

And after about 60 full seconds of free fall, they pull the parachute…

Parachute Pull CollageAnd then it’s a smooth ride down where you are happy to have your feet back on firm ground after an unforgettable experience!

Ryan Landing Collage

Ryan is clearly the more bad ass of the two of us….he landed on his feet and they made me slide back to land on my bum.

Erin Landing Collage

We absolutely loved this adventure and will keep it as one of our favorite memories! Not sure if or when we’ll go again but we’re certainly glad we’ve been once! We HIGHLY recommend this adventure so I hope you will be able to experience the rush of skydiving at some point in your life! I’m sure you will love every minute of it just like we did! If you find yourself in Taupo and want to Skydive, Skydive Taupo is a great place to go! 

Living Large in Rotorua!

Our next stop on our New Zealand vacation was the town of Rotorua. We had heard from several of our friends that this was quite the hot spot for adventure. We got there a bit late in the evening, so we checked into our wonderful little hotel and then went for a quick look at the nearby Redwood Forest. The trees were giant!

Redwood Forest NZ CollageWith a full day of fun ahead of us, we woke up early the next day to check out one of the thermal parks. Rotorua is known for being one of the few places in the world with a high concentration of thermal activity. We knew we had made it when the smell of sulfur overcame us – we walked around and saw the colorful thermal pools, including quite a few of the bubbling mud pools.

Rotorua Thermal CollageEvery day in the morning, the geyser in the park erupts so we went that direction to get a good spot to watch. At first I was skeptical that the geyser erupts on such a strict schedule – nothing in nature operates that way. The park ranger walked up and put in some soap to stimulate the eruption, mimicking the way it was found many years ago when people accidentally put some soap in there when going to wash their clothes. So we were right – it’s not naturally that predictable but it was still impressive!

Rotorua Geyser Collage

After a wonderful morning exploring the thermal parks that we couldn’t jump in, we went off for an adventure where we could, called the Squeeze. It combined a Riverjet ride with a walk to some natural hot springs – I know, sounds like the most perfect trip ever…and it was!! We had an absolute blast! The jetboat is a NZ invention – it is basically a water ski in boat form. It is incredibly fast and can do also turn on a dime, so they do plenty of 360 spins during your trip. The icing on the cake is that the scenery around you is to die for!

NZ Riverjet View

After a beautiful ride along the river, our driver told us to get out. So we jumped out of the boat and started following him up onto the banks where we followed the shallow river inland – the longer we walked, the warmer the water became. We also came upon some skinny, mossy passageways that we had to maneuver through – SO COOL! At the very end was a natural hot springs waterfall. Our pictures didn’t come out all that great, but you’ll get the idea even with the blurry photos – it was incredible!

Squeeze Collage

We spent a little while soaking in the pools before heading back for another wild ride on the river. It was an amazing day!

NZ Riverjet Ride 2On our last day in Rotorua, we did separate activities in the morning – Ryan went running/hiking and I went to Hobbiton (which was so awesome I think it deserves its own post so stay tuned!) and then in the afternoon we went mountain biking at this really great park in the Redwood Forest. Ryan has gotten really into mountain biking while living here in Korea and I’m always up for trying new things so we rented bikes and helmets and headed out onto the trails. It was raining, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time! I had a couple of falls but Ryan was always there right away to help get me back on my bike. With this, we fulfilled our mission to go hard in Rotorua!

NZ Mountain BikingThat evening, we got ready for our last activity in Rotorua – this time one where we could learn more about the fascinating Maori culture. The Maoris are the native people that originally settled New Zealand. You may have seen the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team perform the Haka before – this is a Maori tradition. We got to see it performed by some of the Maoris still living in New Zealand – it contained all of the intimidating tongue showing which we did with the chief before heading to dinner. Dinner was a feast cooked in an underground oven and was delicious!

Maori Feast Collage

Just before we left, they took us to one of their sacred springs which has glow worms in it….these little critters were really bright and a really neat sight to see! The Maori feast and performance was the perfect ending of our time in Rotorua – a few days full of adventure and culture…just the way we like to vacation!

Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty

After our awesome NYE in Sydney, we headed straight to New Zealand on the first day of 2014 – all set for 10 days of adventure! We landed in Auckland, spent the night, picked up our rental car and then drove to Tauranga which is on the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. The weather was great and we headed to Mount Maunganui to hike…it was right on the water with a beach just in front of it, so we knew the view was going to be a great one!

Mt Maunganui

It was a really nice hike and the views were wonderful!

Tauranga Collage

Mt Maunganui Hike 1

Mt Maunganui Hike 2

Afterwards, we enjoyed some really delicious beer at a local brewery. Being in Korea, one of the things that we miss most is local, awesome beer on tap so we were in heaven.

NZ Beer

The next day, we went out on a dolphin watching trip – we had wet suits so that if we found a pod of dolphins, we could jump in and swim with them. I was super excited about it and so we headed out early in the morning on a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we didn’t find enough dolphins to get in the water with them, but we did get the chance to have some swim with the boat we were on for a little while which was great. One of the dolphins even had a baby with her!

Dolphin Watching TaurangaTravel Tip: If you’re heading there and looking for a nice little place to stay, we really enjoyed our stay at City Suites.

Halong Bay Cruise Fun: Days 2 & 3

After a great first day, we woke up the next day ready to go to the Fishing Village in the morning. We got in a boat where a Vietnamese woman took us around the village – they also gave us the fantastic hats to wear the whole time which made it even more awesome. Our guide told us that some of the children that grow up here don’t see land until they are teenagers and go into town for things with their parents. It was pretty incredible that they have a fully functioning society that has never set foot on land – it seems so foreign to me but they probably think I’m a bit crazy for not being a strong swimmer…we all have our own perspective.

Halong Bay Fishing Village

The scenery in this area was particularly beautiful and the people were full of smiles!

Fishing Village All Smiles

We got back for some more food, a quick nap and then we headed over to an area for some more sea kayaking. This spot was even more beautiful than the first.

_DSC0570

Look closely…those tiny specs are sea kayakers – shows you just how grand the scenery is here!

What made this trip incredibly cool was that we went kayaking through some caves and in some cases had to lay down in the canoe to paddle because the cave ceiling was just above the water. The guide took us through the caves and into this really cool little alcove that was only accessible through the caves – it was awesome! I’ve always wanted to do that so it was certainly a wonderful experience.

Sea Kayaking through Caves HLB

Afterwards, we took turns jumping off the boat into the water – it was so much fun…couldn’t have been in a more beautiful place!

Jumping off the boat in HLB

One of our favorite parts of the cruise was getting to know some of the people working there. On our last night, as the sun was setting, we took advantage of happy hour at the bar and played bar games with the bartenders.

Sunset in HLB

They gave us some bar challenges to solve using cups and cards – the guys loved these and Ryan solved one of them, earning himself a free beer! I couldn’t have been more proud.

HLB Bar Games Collage

The bar tender also told us that he could read minds – Kim was skeptical at first but he chose her card so we weren’t so sure what to think after that.

Kim's Mind Being Read

Left: Our guide reading Kim’s mind; Right: Kim’s reaction when he picked the right card

On our last day, we explored the Surprise Cave. It was full of tourists but it was certainly an interesting stop and had a neat view of Halong Bay upon exiting the cave.

Surprise Cave

And so ended our amazing cruise in Halong Bay. We said goodbye to the crew and headed back for a bit more time in Hanoi. If you’re thinking about vacating in Southeast Asia, be sure to put Halong Bay on your list of places to visit…we found it to be both relaxing and fun and wish we could go back and do it all again!

Our new friends made the cruise even better and stumped us with a few bar challenges!
Our new friends made the cruise even better and made sure this experience was one we would always remember! 

Halong Bay Cruise: Day 1

3 days and 2 nights in Halong Bay – let the amazing cruise begin! As soon as we got on the boat, they gave us cocktails and served up a beautiful lunch! The food was to die for every day which made me so happy – we love Vietnamese food!

Cruise Food & Drinks

We were in heaven – the scenery around us was just breathtaking!

Halong Bay

In the afternoon, they anchored the boat and took us out sea kayaking to a private beach which was a blast! We felt like we were living in a dream – it was awesome!

Sea Kayaking in Halong Bay

That night, we had a cooking class and they taught us how to make spring rolls! They also gave us some Vietnamese liquor that they had left in a coconut for 1 – 2 months. It was incredible!

Spring Roll Cooking Class

At the very end of the night, we tried our hand at squid fishing. I don’t think any squid were interested in what we were offering so we gave it our best try but unfortunately did not snag any.

Squid Fishing

We were anchored in a quiet little area for the night…this was a neat sight to have from our balcony as our first day ended.

Halong Bay at Night

Halong Bay Cruise: AuCo Cruise Boat

Halong Bay was extremely high on my bucket list and after a great first day in Vietnam, we were picked up at the hotel and our drive to Halong Bay began – I could not have been more excited! We got to the waiting area and were shuttled off to our cruise boat where we would spend 3 days and 2 nights around the beautiful scenery Vietnam has to offer while eating amazing food and also going on fun excursions – I was seriously SO excited! The scenery was breathtaking.

First View of HLB

We could see our cruise boat getting the last round of supplies before we headed on board – these boats are typically called “Junk Boats” – I know that Junk Boat is more of a nickname for these boats, but this was anything but junky…AuCo Cruise Boat

We hopped aboard the shuttle taxi to take us to our boat…obviously we rocked the life jackets (as you may recall, orange is totally my color)…

HLB Shuttle to Cruise Boat

….and boarded the boat – the crew all stood outside and waved to welcome us. They were some of the nicest people I have met and they would go above and beyond to make sure you had a wonderful time.

AuCo Cruise Boat 2

The woman who gave us our key said that we had the most beautiful place on the boat – we figured she said that to everyone, but as we walked down the corridor, we realized…

Walkway to our room

…they had upgraded us to be at the room in the front of the boat! We couldn’t believe it – what a wonderful surprise! The room was really nice!

HLB Cruise Room

I loved the dark wood in the bathroom…so classy! HLB Room Bathroom

View from HLB Cruise Window

And the balcony made for an excellent spot to hang out and enjoy the amazing view. You can tell how pumped we are from our giant smiles – yeah, those were hard to shake off the entire cruise!

HLB Chilling on the Balcony

We decided on the AuCo Cruise and couldn’t have been happier – it was absolutely amazing! I’ll be sharing more about what we did in Vietnam, so stay tuned for stories about sea kayaking, fishing villages, caves, and more!

sig

For the record, these opinions are all my own – we fully adored this cruise! 

Site Design by Bumble + Buzz Design // Copyright © 2013 Traveling Techies