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Published: February 15th 2015
Right, time to finish off my journey around the world, I do believe we last talked as I was readying myself to leave the delights of French Polynesia (tip – if you are ever ashamed to eat Spam, not that anyone should be, just claim it as a French Polynesian delicacy, makes it sound posh). This is the last blog of the trip, taking in three countries but as I’ve blogged Australia before it is only going to get a brief mention.
My next stop was to visit a country I had never been to before, mainly brushing off my lack of a visit there to people with ‘Why would I want to go? It’s just like Wales but bigger’, guaranteed to wind up any of natives of the country in question (also works with Scotland too). That’s right folks, I was heading south 2547 miles to the islands of New Zealand. I hadn’t actually planned on going to New Zealand but once I’d booked to Bora Bora I realised I would have to make a stopover in Auckland on my way to Australia. Since I would have to land there anyway I thought I’d stop for a night and
get a small taster of what the land of sheep (see, like Wales) has to offer.
Boarding the plane at Tahiti, I was ready for the day that was never to be. My flight left Tahiti at 7am on the 17th
of September and through the magic of time travel, I arrive 5 or so hours later on the 18th
of September, tempus fugit indeed, where does all the time go? Perhaps to the same place as all the odd socks, we will probably never know.
As we landed in New Zealand, it was raining (yep, still like Wales) and I headed out (past the LOTR statues) to get the bus to the city. One of the best exports I am aware of from New Zealand is the comedy programme ‘Flight of the Conchords’, and the bus journey into the city was like being in an episode, I smirked to myself as the driver gave us a Conchordesque narrative. Driving through the suburbs was also a new experience, it was rather ‘quaint’ and it isn’t often in life I travel to places more ‘quaint’ than from where I originate from. The bus dropped me off at the quay
Head for heights?
The view from the Sky Tower, only 328m up.
in Auckland city centre and I went off to find my hotel and have a little rest as technically I’d been up a couple of days now.
Once refreshed I headed out in the drizzle (Wales…) to take a walk down the main street, Queen Street. I have to confess my first impressions of Auckland were not too good, probably akin to if you dropped someone on the wrong end of Oxford Street in London, first impressions would not be too favourable. Undaunted I decided to do something touristy and went in search of the Sky Tower, just to add another tall building of the world to my list. The views from the top (328m or 1076ft) gave a good perspective of the city and a view of the rather pleasingly symmetrical Rangitoto Island. Of course this isn’t the only volcano in Auckland, the fact is Auckland is built on a volcanic field of about 53 or so volcanoes imagine that. I also watch some people do the ‘Sky Jump’ off the tower, but since the weather was a bit inclement, I thought I’d pass that day. Returning to ground level I wandered around and found some much nicer
Look, a real live volcano (a shield one), Rangitoto Island, it's only about 600 years old, a mere baby in geological timescales.
areas just behind the main street and close to the university and Albert Park and decided Auckland wasn’t so bad after all.
Awaking the next morning the weather had improved considerably and as my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, I took a walk to the Auckland Art Gallery and enjoyed an exhibition of Maori art and art by the early settlers. Walking down the rather nice High Street towards the Britomart area and I then ended my 24 hours in NZ with a walk along the harbour front. They are rather fond of sailing in Auckland, often called The City of Sails, and they always have an Americas Cup keel on display outside the Maritime Museum. I believe the British invented the competition but we haven’t won since, typical..
It seems by about 12pm on a Friday all of Auckland is out to lunch, all the many restaurants and bars in the Britomart area to the North Wharf were packed out with people, nice to see they are relaxed south of the Equator. I didn’t have time to have a long lunch though, I had to get back on the bus and head back to the airport again
A Long way from home
Pretty much the other side of the world, yet it felt a bit like Wales.
and hop on another flight north a bit to Sydney. Although my time in New Zealand was indeed very brief, I felt I certainly would like to return and explore the rest of the country, even if it is like Wales.
Another 1343 miles and I’d be in Sydney, not my first trip but I had planned a stop over to catch up with a friend who was also in town at that point. I’d booked a flight with Emirates and to my planespotting joy, it was an A380, wonderful! My first trip in the mega plane so I was rather over excited indeed, what a machine. I was in economy for this trip, but boy, it was the best economy I’ve ever been in. The plane was huge, the seats were large, the entertainment was excellent, my only niggle would be they didn’t serve my favourite brand of gin #MiddleClassWoes indeed.
Despite the gin fiasco, I got to Sydney unscathed and caught the train into the city to find my hotel. Having been to Sydney before and blogged about it, I won’t go on about it too much. The usual things were done, just walking about and
The univeristy clock tower
Built in the 1920s and described by some as ''Maori Gothic'.
catching up with my friend. I did make it to the North Shore and Manly bay which is somewhere I hadn’t been before and tried the barramundi and chips for lunch, mmm, delicious.
After a few days of relaxing in Sydney, I had to head off to the airport once more to fly off to the final stop on my world tour, Singapore ( or as they say in Mandarin: 新加坡 Xīnjiāpō). The penultimate leg was 3915 miles north and taking off mid-afternoon meant I was arriving in Changi about 9pm, so I could catch the MRT to the hotel. When booking my hotel I had toyed with the famous Raffles but then wisely took advice from a friend and booked the Marina Bay Sands hotel instead and I am very pleased I did.
I’d heard mixed things about Singapore from different people, but it was my first trip there so naturally I was quite excited. I’d also heard very good things about the airport however I think we hit the change of shift for immigration and so had rather a long wait to be let in. By the time I got to the MRT it was getting
When trees attack
A random park in Auckland I stumbled across, not sure what came first, the trees or the park.
late but luckily I got there in time to get into the city, I was impressed by how cheap the MRT was and finally managed to get to my destination. Arriving at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, it was a bit like a Las Vegas hotel in size. Also there is a large casino underneath it and a lot of very luxurious shops around, no doubt all to entice the newly wealthy Chinese to part with their hard earned Yuan. As I checked in, they informed me I’d got lucky again and had been bumped up to a city view room, I was getting good at this upgrade lark. The hotel comprises of three towers, I suspect mine was the cheaper tower but still I was 48 floors up and the room was huge, and as for the view, absolutely amazing, I was a happy bunny.
I awoke the next morning rather early for a holiday as I was a bit too excited about going up to the pool, which the hotel is famous for. The infinity pool is on the top of the hotel on the 57th
floor and stretches the length of the three towers. Sadly for
everyone else, it is only open to hotel guests, whereas I couldn’t wait to take a swim. It was a bit vertigo inducing as you get a 360° view over the city and also the Gardens by the Bay at the back of the hotel. There is also a viewing platform for non-guests, but if you every go to Singapore, I would recommend staying there as it is fantastic just to sit and gaze out over the city from the pool. Especially with the heat and humidity of Singapore, it is a good place to relax.
I decided I couldn’t sit in the hotel pool all day, even though I could have happily done so, I thought I better get out and about and take a look at the rest of Singapore. I’d just missed the 2014 Grand Prix only a few days before but there was plenty of evidence of the event still littering the streets around Marina Bay. I started off with a walk around the bay, across the Helix Bridge, past the ‘Durian’ theatre and towards the Singapore ‘Merlion’, the rather strange symbol of the city (head of a lion, body of a fish). Not a
You can actually jump off the Sky Tower, whether you chose to use the harnesses available, well that is up to you.
very traditional symbol of the city, rather a marketing campaign from the 1960s. Still, it makes for a nice photo. Singapore has the mix of old Colonial buildings, Oriental buildings and modern architecture which I rather enjoy, similar to Hong Kong and Shanghai. One of the most impressive buildings from Colonial days is now the Fullerton hotel, a grand piece of architecture, even more so when you find out that it once was the Post Office, they definitely don’t build them like that anymore.
I crossed the Singapore River behind the hotel and walked down Boat Quay and headed towards China town, as it was nearly lunch time and I am a bit partial to Chinese food. Of course I was suffering a bit with the humidity and since so many people in Singapore speak Mandarin, I thought I’d put my lessons to use to order a watermelon juice in the Hawkers area, perhaps it was my accent but sadly I had to resort to English to make them understand me, ah well, back to school. After lunch and a bit more wandering, I felt the need to head back to the pool, so spent the afternoon looking out
Where am I?
Can you guess? Anything in the picture which mighto give you a clue?
over the city, well seemed silly not to make use of it. For dinner I headed back to China town to try the Chilli Crab, it was good, just very messy and a bib was necessary. Then after dinner, yep, you guessed it, I went back to the pool, for now it was night time and I hadn’t swum at night yet. It is even better at night, what can I say, I love that pool!
The next day was my last day of holiday, boo! I was on a very late flight out of Singapore so had one more day to spend in the city. Sadly I had to check out by lunch, but I did manage to fit in a bit of pool time before I left. Once I’d stored my luggage I walked underneath the hotel to the Gardens by the Bay Park. The park is built on reclaimed land looks a bit like an alien landscape, the Supertrees Grove is quite bizarre, but with a walkway connecting a few of them, they are good for a good view over the gardens and my new favourite hotel.
Time was getting on and I needed to
This creeps me out
The famous Luna Park in Sydney, creepy face...
cover some more ground so I took the MRT to Little India for a different flavour of Singapore. Immediately I came across a colourful temple and enjoyed walking around looking at the interesting markets and shops. Using this as a starting point, my route then took me down the famous shopping road, Orchard Road, mainly for a bit of air conditioning to cool down. Then of course, before I left, it would have been remiss of me not to pop into Raffles for a small drinkipoo.
By the time I arrived I had walked a fair distance and in the heat of the tropics, there is only one drink to quench the thirst and fight the mosquitoes, your favourite and mine, a gin and tonic. I was in a bit of a dilemma of course, with Raffles being the home of the Singapore Sling, which I am partial to on occasion but by the time I arrived at the famous Long Bar, all I wanted was a nice G+T. On ordering said G+T, the barman looked a little perplexed but prepared my drink with care, and I have to say it was an outstanding G+T, the best I had
all trip. On talking to the barman he queried why I chose not to have a Singapore Sling and I make up some story about them being too sweet, rather than tell him the truth that everyone I know who has been there said they were all mixed in bulk and weren’t very good. He offered to make a less sweet one with a different gin, so I accepted as at least I knew it was a bulk one, and actually it was rather good, he even gave me a free cocktail shaker, clearly he could tell what a connoisseur (or lush) I am…
I rather liked Raffles Hotel, not just because of the gin, it is a lovely building with some fantastic murals, and you certainly felt you had been transported back in time to a grander age, maybe I’ll stay there if I go back to Singapore sometime. Cocktail hour was sadly over and I had to think about heading out to the airport once more. Luckily I knew I was going to enjoy the 14 hour journey home as I’d been on the top deck of an A380, so at least it wasn’t going to be
Trying to be arty...
a hard journey home. However after a month of travelling, getting back to normal life was going to be difficult, returning home and not having to go ‘off to the airport’ every few days was going to take some adjustment.
I collected my bags and with a heavy heart, caught the MRT to the airport for the last leg of my epic voyage, 6771 miles back home. In total I’d travelled 24,952 miles and circumnavigated the globe, it felt good, I just wish I could have kept going…
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