3 nights in Barcelona.

Nearly 8 months prior to my travel, I booked myself a seat on Qatar Airways for SGD 863 for a 2-way Singapore to Barcelona flight (layover in Doha) with my girlfriends! It was my first real trip to Europe (turkey doesn’t count ;)) and we were gonna be going for TOMATINA!! Couldn’t be more psyched that this was finally happening! After our countless talk of being part of the tomato madness and striking it off our bucket list, the moment was finally here! Tickets were booked!

We flew to Barcelona, figured out the metro system, struggled with street names, and directions while figuring out our apartment location, took a long while to locate a Vodafone that is actually open and possibly found the best (and very affordable) paella in town in a very fancy restaurant. Verdict: 3 nights ain’t enough!

Getting around

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A single trip from to airport to the city (or vice versa) costs EUR 4.50 via the metro line shown above. As you can see, the metro network is relatively easy to figure out. There a various day passes that can be purchased for your travels within Barcelona. As we were there for 3 nights, we got ourselves a 3 day pass for EUR 20.50. There is also another option of T10 (10 train rides) for EUR 9.90 (airport ride not included). On our return back to the airport, to pick up our rental car before we drove to Valencia, we tried to outsmart the system buying by a T10 pass to share it between myself and my 3 other friends. Sorry guys, didn’t work.

SIM Matters

Vodafone seemed to be the most reliable telecomm provider and since their price was affordable I decided to stick with a familiar name. It costed me EUR 15 for 1.5gb and lucky for me, there was a free upgrade to 3GB for the same price. The SIM was valid for a month, which was more than enough for my 16 day travel within Spain.

Attractions

  1. Sagrada Familia!

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THE place to visit when in Barcelona! Lucky me, could even get a glimpse of the Roman Catholic wonder from the balcony of my apartment! That was how near our apartment was to Sagrada! Despite walking by the Sagrada each time we took the Metro, I couldn’t help but marvel at Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece that is still under construction even after over 100 years. We pre-booked our tickets online way earlier and ended up scoring discounted tickets at EUR 7.30 for a Sunday entry into the church (without audio guide)

Other ticketing information can be found at: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/tickets/

2. Casa Batllo

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Following Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s next architectural marvel would be Casa Batllo. Located along Passeig de Gracia, Casa Batllo is a stone’s throw away from Guadi’s another beauty – Casa Mila. As entry to each costed quite a bit, we opted to visit just Casa Batllo. Known for it’s irregular oval windows, flowing sculpted stone work, very few straight lines, broken ceramic tiles making up a colourful mosaic, Casa Batllo was a beauty to be standing within.

Entry to Casa Batllo costed us EUR 22 each, which came with an audio guide. Highly recommended, despite being slightly costly!

3. Park Guell

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I nicknamed this, Gaudi’s little playground! Minus, the (insane) crowd, there is nothing not to love about Park Guell! It’s no surprise that there is a limit of 400 tickets every half hour to the Monumental Zone of the park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Booking your tickets online guarantees you a spot in the park and also allows you to save 1 Euro from the ticket price of 8 Euros at the door.

4. Camp Nou

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Camp Nou stadium experience is really ONCE in a lifetime! Highly recommend going for it! Tickets costs EUR 23 + EUR 5 (for an audio guide – which is helpful if you are not really game for reading all the information displayed in the gallery).

Food, Glorious food

In my entire trip around Spain, Les Quinze Nits was my favourite for their paella! It looks very fancy from the outside that we actually walked past it, till my friend actually pointed it out. Thank god for locals! The paella tasted very authentic and it was affordable, so what’s not to love about it.

A thing to note: paella actually tastes different all throughout Spain, so enjoy eating your way through 🙂

For churros, I enjoyed those I tried at Petritxol cafe. Thick, warm chocolate to dip sugar coated churros in. Aaaahhhh…. And there after, head down to Barceloneta Beach to laze the afternoon away. As good as life gets!

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Next up, was Valencia! And that meant, TOMATINA!!!!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

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Bali Daze.

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I decided to make use of the long weekend (thanks to Good Friday) to revisit Bali having been there last, in 2013. I’ve been always been wanting to explore Uluwatu and Ubud so decided that I’d do just that over this trip instead of visiting the usual tourist spots of Kuta and Seminyak.

I did 2 1-way flights each on Jetstar and Tiger which allowed me to score tickets for around SGD 200 for a Friday (early) morning flight out with a Monday night return. Seemed like a pretty sweet deal so I grabbed the tickets last August itself.

Accommodation

There are plenty of villa options that greet you when you are deciding on where to stay in Bali. I had initially planned to stay at Nusa Dua for 1 night, Uluwatu for 1 night and then spend the last night winding down in Ubud. However, 4 days before my flight out there were some changes that I had to make to my Airbnb booking due to a system glitch that booked me into a villa that had already been booked. Am glad I managed to sort it out with the Airbnb host and everything worked to my advantage to be honest! 🙂

Moral of story: If you book way in advance for your hotels, try to get those which allow for free cancellation. You never know when it comes in handy.

So, we ended up staying near Nusa Dua for 1 night and then at our Airbnb accommodation (near Uluwatu) for 2 nights.

Our accommodation at Nusa Dua was at Tjendana Villas 1 BR Private Pool Villa ($138/night). Facilities were slightly above average only but the environment of the villa within a beautiful private compound made up for a slightly small pool and poor breakfast spread. After a night there, I moved to Villa Seratus (Airbnb) which ended up being the bomb! Highly recommend staying there if you are looking for a place near Uluwatu. I managed to get a really good rate for 2 nights due to the system hiccup so no complains at all! The villa is slightly on the steep side (SGD 180 onwards) due to the spaciousness as well as private pool/jacuzzi area. On top of that, there is a 50m lap pool shared between the 5 villas in the compound. There is breakfast option for an add on of about SGD 10 as well as in-house massage option. My 2-night stay there was pure bliss!

Transport

The previous time I travelled to Bali I realised I spent quite a fair bit on transport. As such, I decided to rent a motorbike this time round. I rented a Honda F1 (150cc) via Bali Big Bike for USD 10/day. It worked out to USD 40 for my 4 day stay in Bali. I decided to add on a mobile phone holder to the bike for USD 2.50, which ended up being really helpful in navigating us through Bali.

There are plenty of transport companies you can rent from. Hence, this table comparison would be really helpful in helping you pick the better and more trustworthy rental companies.

Petrol, if you get it from the gas station, is around IDR 7k per litre. Anywhere else, it’s about IDR 10k per litre. We topped up about 5-6 litres throughout the 4 days. It’s really economical to rent a scooter and saves you a lot of money to indulge on good food.

Tip: Do wear helmets even if they are slightly uncomfortable. On our last day, while heading to the airport, we got stopped by the police for not wearing our helmets. We are told to pay IDR 500k but negotiated our way out with just IDR 150k.

Dine and Wine

      1. Sisterfields Cafe, Seminyak

IMG_4350.JPGft. Breakfast Burrito (IDR 100k) and Pash Me Smoothie (IDR 47k)

I have been looking stalking the brunch scene in Bali for quite a while and decided on my first meal (brunch/lunch) to be at Sisterfields Cafe in Seminyak (next to Seminyak Square) upon my arrival in Bali. It took us nearly an hour to reach Sisterfields from the airport navigating through the traffic with our backpacks in the sweltering heat. Plus, I forgot to pin the location on the maps so clearly finding our way was a real struggle. But, the food and the smoothie (freaking awesome!) made everything so worth it. We tried the Banoffee dessert (IDR 60k) which was extremely sweet and delectable.

      2. Rock Bar, AYANA Resort, Jimbaran 

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Visiting Rock Bar has been on my bucket list since FOREVER. So, what better way then to spend my Friday evening watching sunset and lazing over drinks. Don’t expect much food wise here. You are essentially just paying for view. There was a minimum spend of IDR 600k for 2 if you were to occupy the arm cushion. Hence, we got 2 appetisers and 2 drinks between us, which costed us IDR 550k in total. They didn’t actually need us to hit IDR 600k so that was good.

Tip: The good seats get filled up really quick so be sure to head about 5pm (or even earlier) to get yourself a good view of the sunset. 

      3. Made’s Warung, Seminyak

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For good old Indonesian food, Made’s Warung would be your best bet. Both the dishes we tried – Nasi Campur and Nasi Goreng Udang (Shrimps) were very authentic. Each dish is roughly around IDR 50k to 60k. During our meal, there was a local band playing Balinese music which completed our dining experience really well. One of our friends, recommended us their Cheese Cake and it was surprisingly good. There is another outlet in Kuta, so depending on where you are, be sure to swing by either of their outlets for at least a meal.

      4. Kat’s Kitchen, Uluwatu

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T0 be honest, I had low expectations for Kat’s Kitchen as it was recommended by Airbnb host. I reckoned since it was near the villa it was the most convenient place to suggest for average food. In the 48 hours I spent in the villa, I visited Kat’s Kitchen for 3 meals so enough said I’m guessing. I’m drooling just thinking about their Tom Yam Goong. Yes, who doesn’t love Thai food! I’d recommend their Thai Fish Cake, Laap Kai (Spicy minced chicken served with rice), Tom Yam Goong and Khao Phat Talay (Seafood Fried Rice). Average meal for 2 costs about IDR 200k.

      5. Bumbu Bali 1, Tanjung Benoa 

IMG_4757.JPGft. Nasi Goreng Seafood (IDR 140k) and Tahu Isi Ikan (stuffed crispy tofu) (IDR 92.5k)

Thanks to my effort in googling to find something to eat near Nusa Dua, I found Bumbu Bali. After our jetskiing in Nusa Dua Beach we headed to Bumbu Bali for a late lunch. I didn’t have high expectations for this place as it seemed to be slightly commercialised with their many awards and certifications that greeted me at the door as well as their in-house cooking classes. The presentation of the food already blew me away when it was served, in addition to the presentation style of the staff in explaining each dish to us. Definitely worth a visit if you are in South Bali. There is another outlet (Bumbu Bali 2) just stone’s throw away from this so if this gets filled up guests are sent over by the private cars.

      6. Finn’s Beach Club, Ungasan

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Finn’s Beach Club is literally heaven on earth! The entrance of IDR 300k is worth it, trust me! For the private beach you get the enjoy, the beanbags that lie on the sand you can sprawl on along with rental of kayaks, snorkel equipment and stand up paddle board (when tide is high) makes the experience worth it. In addition, you get a F&B credit of IDR 150k. There was a 50% off happy hour from 6-7pm which was perfect timing for us to have a dip before settling in the beanbags for some drinks and a bite.

To be honest, having visited both the Rock Bar and Finn’s Beach Club, I’d recommend the latter if you are looking to splurge on just one. The privacy of the beach access you get to enjoy is unparalleled.

Other Activities 

We were contemplating doing flyboarding at Nusa Dua but decided against it as it was roughly around USD 85 per person. Instead, we did jetski which costed us IDR 175 per jetski for 15 minutes (we rode solo). We had also planned on doing paragliding (for USD 85) but somehow got delayed so gave it a miss.

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Uluwatu, is another highlight to visit when heading to South Bali. Entrance fee for an adult is IDR 300k and child is IDR 200k. It’s quite a long stretch around the temple that you can walk along to watch the magnificent sunset. Every evening there is an hour long Balinese dance performed in Uluwatu (tickets cost IDR 100k).

Tip: The monkeys are real and aggressive! Be sure to safeguard your belongings and carry minimum items when visiting Uluwatu. I’m glad we didn’t watch the dance as it would have meant getting out of Uluwatu post sunset (in darkness).

All in all, this trip got me falling deeper in love with Bali. I got to explore South Bali pretty well given my 4D3N there and also checked off – pillioning on a scooter in Indonesia. My only pity was I didn’t not have time to make a day trip out to Ubud. I guess that just means another trip to Bali beckons. 😉

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Boracay Times.

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I ended up heading to Boracay during the super peak travel season, just before Christmas, with my family last year. We spent 3 nights in Manila and then flew Sky Jet Airways for about SGD 120 (1-way) to Caticlan Airport as we had a 1-way ticket booked back to Singapore with Tiger from Kalibo Airport (approximately 1 hour from Caticlan).

Accommodation

Our accommodation in Boracay was a pretty basic 3-star resort located just along Station 2 – Boracay Haven Resort. For just SGD 130/night for a deluxe room with breakfast, the best thing about the resort is the location! It is about 50m away from a Macdonalds (for all your late night cravings) and within a matter of another 100m your feet sink into the pure white sand of the beach paradise. How perfect and heavenly!

Activities

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Being a beach haven, there is a plethora of activities to greet you once you set foot in Boracay. Plenty of tour companies are littered along the beachfront you will be spoilt for choices. We booked our activities with Jojo Fadrillan from Allan B Fun Tour for a rather reasonable rate. We got a private boat chartered for 4 hours (no lunch provided) for PHP 500 each. It totalled to PHP 2000 for the 4 of us for Magic Island (up to 10m cliff jumps), Crystal Cove, Coral Garden (snorkelling) as well as Crocodile Island.

There is an entrance fee of PHP 150 per person for Magic Island (payable on reaching destination) which grants you access for (unlimited) jumps. I did 8m and 10m jumps while the sister did the 8m and 9m ones. I reckon there are 5m and 7m jump options available too.

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Crystal Cove was a picturesque place that was definitely worth the visit. Lying between Boracay and Caticlan mainland is this beautiful islet of white beach with pristine crystal clear water. According to legend, this islet was once called “the island of desire”.

If you are looking to get away from crowded beach, Puka beach at the far end of the island towards Station 1, is worth a visit.

For the other activities, if I remember right, I paid about PHP 400-500 for 1 hour of stand up paddle boarding (1 board) and PHP 1000 per person for parasailing.

Other activities to consider would be heading to the famous Aerial’s Point for cliff jumping. We gave it a miss as it is a whooping PHP 2500 per person due to the distance of the place from Boracay.

Food

I was recommended Cyma restaurant for greek food as well as Dos Mestizos for spanish tapas by my brother who visited Boracay some time back. And oh wait, of course, everyone hears about Jonah’s Fruit Shake and Snack Bar before even setting foot in Boracay. But, to be honest, it’s highly overrated in my opinion. Worth a try if you are in Station 1, otherwise I wouldn’t actually go in search of it.

At Cyma, we tried an eggplant appetiser, their famous and renowned flaming cheese, Solomos (tomato based salmon angel hair pasta) and lamb ribs (which were way too oily for any our liking). It’s a relatively small eatery within the area of D’mall which makes it appropriate if you are looking for a quick meal with an interesting culinary experience. Another very popular dish at Cyma is a crab pasta dish, yes, it’s a whole crab! So be prepared, for the dish to set you back by about SGD 30. Overall, I was slightly disappointed with my visit to Cyma. It might have been my poor food choices or it could have been the extremely busy restaurant which didn’t allow me enjoy my dinner in a laid back fashion.

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Having said that, Dos Mestizos, blew me away for the quality of food as well as quiet and chill ambience which made the whole dining experience with my family a good one. We ordered a few tapas as well as a seafood paella to share. Fresh fish cubes in garlic marinade, blue cheese and bechamel croquettes, shrimps sauteed in olive oil and garlic and squid stuffed with chopped egg, chilli, garlic and tomato just to name a few tapas we had. The squid tapas (pictured above) is definitely a must try!

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And saving the best for the last, D’ Talipapa wet market! Located in station 2, down a small alleyway near Victory Diver’s Resort, this is a very interesting dining concept especially for lunch as you get to buy your own fresh seafood from the market before proceeding to get your food cooked in your preferred stall.

A few things to note:

  1. Haggling is a MUST! It’s hard to know exactly how much you should be paying so be sure to walk around without being in a hurry to close the deal.
  2. Avoiding the lunch hour belt between 12-2pm would be good if you are looking to get the seafood at cheaper prices. It will be ideal if you are spending the morning doing half day tours and then you can head over for a late lunch.
  3. Apart from seafood, you can buy chicken, vegetable and fruits at the market.

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Having tried just 2 stalls within D’Talipapa to get our food prepared, I’d suggest Plato D’ Boracay for their above average cooking service. Natalia’s Kusina although cheaper was pretty average. But, having said that, it all depends on the preparation style you request for.

Our seafood haul:

800g Lobster PHP 1200

1kg Prawns PHP 500

500g Scallops PHP 150

Long beans PHP 80

Cooking service at Plato D’ Boracay PHP 885

Dollars and Cents

Upon arrival at Caticlan Airport, you will be flocked with people looking to transport you directly to your hotel in Boracay. Just for your info, your means of getting to Boracay from Caticlan would consist of a 5 minute tricycle ride followed by a 20 minute ferry ride and then a tricycle ride to your hotel in Boracay (station 1/2/3). Apart from the transport fees for this 3 rides, you will be paying terminal fee (PHP 100) as well as environmental and admission fee (PHP 75) at the ferry terminal. So, be sure you know exactly what you are paying for and how much you should be, to avoid getting ripped off before your adventure even starts proper.

When you depart from Kalibo Airport, effective 1 June 2015, all visitors have to pay a international terminal fee of PHP 700. I think the 1 hour journey by a charted van from Caticlan to Kalibo costed us about PHP 200 per person.

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Overall, my 4D3N in Boracay was a blast! If I could do it again, I’d definitely pick the low season to travel so that I can save more on transport and hotel costs and also have less crowded beaches to frolick in. Till then, let me continue dreaming about my next beach getaway!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

5 thoughts working in a (kiwi) pack house leaves you with.

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After a week long search for a pack house job, Aongatete Cool Store, north of Tauranga/Te Puke employed me! The 9-hour PM shift (5.30pm -2.30am) I did (intermittently) for the span of 3 weeks left me with so many million gazillion thoughts. I’ll attempt to encapsulate my emotions to the best of my ability so that you can have a clear picture as to what you can expect if you end up doing seasonal work of any sort EVER.

  1. As easy and mundane, brainless work appears to be it’s actually far from easy. Standing 8 hours on your feet is no joke at all. Each ticking second makes you discover how each muscle in your body can sing different tunes.
  2. You begin to wonder what your life has come down to and if watching kiwis dropping into cardboard boxes are all that you can ever be responsible for.
  3. For the first time in your life, you ACTUALLY look forward to an alarm sound – signalling break/meal time.
  4. You probably have experienced technology failing on you before and have tried cursing in a million different languages for miracles to happen. But, while working at a pack house, machines breaking down is akin to God answering your year long prayer. The joy when you stop hearing the grind of the machines is unparalleled.
  5. The opportunity to sit each time you answer nature’s call feels like you just won the lottery. The peace, quiet, serenity you enjoy even if it is for a mere 3 minutes is heavenly.

As painful as life was for the 3 weeks, I can never be more thankful for the chance I had to make some money before I continued the rest of my adventures while travelling down the rest of North Island. So, I hope I have given you enough inspiration to find work in a pack house. 😉

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Listless days in the Kiwi capital, Te Puke.

After 2.5 months spent WOOFING and travelling around the top half of North Island, I ran out of money. *Surprise, Surprise (NOT)* Bulk of the SGD5000 I brought along, went towards the purchase as well as unexpected repair costs of my Toyota Estima, which ended up being not so cheap after all. Being down to last few hundreds, felt mostly slightly worrisome.

It was 1 April 2015. We had a good lunch at Good Neighbour at Hamilton (thanks to Grabone), and drove over 100km to Te Puke – the kiwifruit capital of the world. We drove right to East Pack which is one of the bigger pack houses in Te Puke hoping to gain employment rather easily now that kiwi season had just begun. However, we were told to fill up application forms and that employment might happen only in 2 – 3 weeks time. We decided to keep our spirits high and rang up a couple of other big pack houses in Te Puke instead of driving down. Apata, Seeka and Trevelyan’s did not have any sort of a good news for us, as well. We cooked ourselves dinner and called it a day hoping for better days ahead and with more luck in terms of employment.

The second day in Te Puke was spent in Te Puke Library which was home to more foreigners (backpackers) hunched over laptops finding employment than locals. Having no luck with pack houses, we decided to look towards finding fruit picking jobs. As the next day was a public holiday, most leads we had was only resuming work in 2-3 days time. After nearly a full day of searching to be able to start kiwi picking work the following day. We expected to be able to survive with this picking job for a couple of weeks before we heard back from the pack houses. However, that wasn’t the case. A full day out picking in the orchards left us beyond smashed and we didn’t think we could last any longer. As simple as kiwi picking sounds, it is actually serious, tough labour. We earned a total of NZD150, inclusive of holiday pay for the 8 hours of work we did. Unfortunately the pay wasn’t going to be credited to us till next week.

Just as we begun work, which ended up being rather short lived, we started paying rent at an apartment in Papamoa Beach, which was relatively near to where our kiwi picking jobs were supposed to be. Thankfully, the rent we paid was only for a week and was rather affordable (NZD 100/week). We spent the rest of the week trying to keep our spirits up, exploring Tauranga and desperately trying to find some work at the pack houses.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

5 things do in Hamilton!

Going back to where I left off with my NZ adventures brings me to Hamilton. Hamilton quite easily became one of the few towns in North Island which I grew to like and saw myself living in for a while. Perhaps doing helpx in a lovely home added to my enjoyable days in Hamilton. Thanks to Linda and Carys and not forgetting, the wonderful meals I had cooked by Linda. Here’s a couple of things you can do when in Hamilton and maybe, you’ll love the town just as much as I did.

1. Wander around Hamilton Gardens

Coming from a person who is not huge on gardens, trust me Hamilton Gardens is a must go! It’s quite surprising it’s free as the the variety of gardens it boasts is pretty extensive. Its perfect to spend a lazy day just wandering through and having a picnic there.

2. Head down to Waitomo Caves

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When someone mentions glowworms to you the first thing that pops to your mind would probably be Waitomo Caves. Thousands of glowworms call these caves home and light up the dark tunnels with the most magical light show.

3. Visit the Waikato Museum

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Waikato Museum is nothing like the TE PAPA museum down in Wellington but, nonetheless, it boasts some interesting exhibits as well as provides you insight on the history of the Waikato region. And, entry is free so why not?!

For more information: http://waikatomuseum.co.nz/

4. Get lost in Middle Earth

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Situated an hour away from Hamilton, Matamata is a must go for all Hobbiton movie fans! Tours start from NZD 75. I am not a fan at all so I gave this a miss. But, I know of people, heading to North Island just for a tour here.

5. Dine in the Good Neighbour

Good George Dining Hall is worth a visit for it’s brewery. But, unfortunately, it was closed when I went down hence settled for having a quick lunch at Good Neighbour before leaving Hamilton for the kiwi capital – Te Puke!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Beauty in the ruins, Angkor Wat (Day 1).

Lazy weekday afternoons has gotten me reminiscing of my Cambodia travels last December with le family.

Angkor Wat is often mistaken to be the entire area of temple in Siem Reap. Instead, Angkor Wat is just the grandest highlight that stands tall in the area – Angkor. Passes may be purchased at the main entrance on the road to Angkor Wat. Passes are sold in one-day (USD 20), three-day (USD 40) and seven-day (USD 60) blocks that must be used on consecutive days.

With the grounds of the temples sprawled across huge acres of land and the scorching heat then defeated us quite easily, covering 4 temples in Day One was quite a feat I’d say. Spent the whole morning at Angkor Wat and the afternoon was spent in Ta Phrom, Ta Keo and Phnom Bakheng. We caught sunset in Angkor area and called it a day. We had a catch a good night’s of sleep and rest our tired feet to take on 2 more days in Angkor. #bringiton #butfirstfootmassageplease

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Up, up and away.

Taken at Balloons over Waikato, Hamilton

We lay sprawled out on our picnic mats and laughed over cheap wine.

Snapped pictures of the colourful light show before our eyes.

Enjoyed the music that lit up the night sky.

Prepared our wishes for when the balloons started lifting of the ground.

A few minutes later, we realised the balloons were not being flown.

Fireworks display came on.

We kissed and bade our goodbyes.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Catching sunrise from North of Northland! 

It was a surreal morning. Driving slightly over 60km to the north most point of North Island – Cape Reinga. Swapped our flip flops to sneakers, pulled our jumpers over, held hands and chased the sun.

Moments later, after the sky lit up for us, we watched the clashing of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean. It felt like I was standing right on the line where the earth was clashing before me. For Maori, these turbulent waters are where the male sea meets the female sea. The whirlpools where the currents clash are like those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.

Next up, was sandboarding at the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes which was about 15km away. Apart from the struggle to climb up the sand dunes, it was fun! There is a mobile shop for board hire just next to the carpark. If I remember right, boards are about $15 each to hire.  Do note there is a fair bit of unsealed road driving before you get to the dunes.

Running along the base of the sand dunes is the famous Te Paki Stream that leads to the Ninety Mile Beach. We tried our luck to drive on the beach but due to tide conditions, we were told we had to wait another 2 hours or so. We didn’t have that much time on our side so we decided to make a round in the stream and head back down towards Auckland.

And with that, our 8-day Northland adventure comes to an end! Next up, was B’s birthday celebrations in Auckland and then hello, Hamilton!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

The day I got locked out of the car.

Continuing the Northland adventures, we drove north from Paihia towards Cape Reinga stopping at Kerikeri town in the morning. Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and is well known for its horticulture and farmer’s market. We stopped by the Old Packhouse Market and visited the Mission Station. This station is home to New Zealand’s oldest surviving building – the Stone Store and Kemp House.

Just after lunch we set off from Keri Keri and headed towards Matia Bay. It was a DOC campground site with a scenic view, which seemed to be a perfect pitstop to cook ourselves some dinner before heading up further north to call it a night.

Fuelled ourselves, had a drink, laughed with the wind in our hair, ran a cold shower in a toilet with no door and set off towards Rarawa Beach Campsite. The idea was so that we’ll have just about 60 more kilometers of driving to be done the next morning before we catch sunrise from Cape Reinga – New Zealand’s northern most tip where you witness the Pacific Ocean meeting the Tasman Sea.

Note: For freedom campers (like me), picking up a copy of a DOC brochure at any I-site would be your best bet in guaranteeing yourself a peaceful night of sleep without the worry of a district council officer knocking on your car window at 7am and leaving you with a $200 fine for illegal freedom camping. 

All seemed to be going fine and under control, despite my wariness of driving after dusk sets. It was slightly after 10pm when we pulled into the rather deserted campsite. There was no one except for a family of about 5 huddled around a picnic table under a huge shelter. We stepped out of the car with just a torchlight, no phones, just a torchlight to find our way to the toilet before heading to bed. 5 seconds after stepping out of the car and slamming the door shut, I realise my friend slams his door shut as well with the key left in the ignition holder. HOW.VERY.SMART!

Time Check: About 10.30pm

Temperature Check: 17 degrees

Attire Check: T-shirt + Shorts

Freezing our asses off from the cold, we walked over to the Mauri family to use their phone to give Automobile Association (AA) a call to come and rescue us. The hour long wait for AA was spent trying to laugh about the situation with the family who ended being our life – savers and of course, counting our lucky stars we bought AA insurance. I CANNOT imagine what would have happened had we been the only campers at the campsite that night.

I slept that night so very grateful that the universe had somehow conspired for us and smiled knowing I now live to narrate this adventurous travel story to everyone back home. 🙂

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.