Sunday, March 10, 2019

New Zealand Road Trip 2018 ✈ West Coast & Lake Wanaka

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

New Zealand 10D9N Road Trip:
Day 1: Hokitika 
Day 2: West Coast & Lake Wanaka 
Day 3: Milford Sound
Day 4: Glenorchy
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Christchurch
Day 7: Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo
Day 8: Wellington
Day 9: Lake Taupo
Day 10: Auckland



Nov 28 (Wed): Hokitika - Franz Josef Glacier - Thunder Creek Falls, Haast Pass, Lake Wanaka - Lake Hawae - Kawarau River - Arrowtown - Queenstown (518kms)

Departed from our Airbnb at 7.20am and started making our way southbound along the West Coast of the South Island. Our goal was to make it to Queenstown before sunset, with quite a number of planned sightseeing stops along the way.


After the gloomy weather the day before, I was very happy that the weather cleared up! Oh clear blue skies!!

Random photo stop along Whataroa River (thanks iphone for the geo-tagging). We learnt a lesson here...never leave the car doors open even for just a few minutes! We hopped off the car to take some photos leaving the car doors open and returned to a bunch of mosquitoes inside the car...ughh!!

We weren't planning on doing anything glacier-related at Franz Josef Glacier as we've done glacier hike in Norway previously, but since it was along the way, we decided to go for a short hike to see the glacier from afar. =P Most people continue hiking closer to the glacier.

Stopped at this viewpoint along Haast Pass Highway but instead of a view of the Tasman sea, all we saw was mist...lol!

Next stop along Haast Pass Highway was Thunder Creek Falls, just short walk from the parking area. We planned on stopping by Blue Pools as well but decided to give it a pass when we saw that it's going to be a 30 min round trip walk.

Another random stop at Boundary Creek Campsite, with direct access to Lake Wanaka.

One of my favorite parts of day-2 drive was along the stretch of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. These two lakes are huge and offered plenty of scenic viewpoints. I literally felt like stopping every 5 minutes for photos! That's the best part about renting a car, we stop as we like. =) Side note: The roads in New Zealand are very clearly marked and there are signs everywhere, including photo stops.

This area is call The Neck, overlooking Lake Hawea. From here, we drove along Lake Hawea for the next 20kms.

Made it to 'That Wanaka Tree' (what a 'creative' name) at 3.30pm...one of the most famous trees in New Zealand. If you noticed in our selfie, a stupid guy decided to 'walk' closer to the tree, and ruin everyone's photos...head shake.


Another random scenic stop...Roaring Meg along Crown Range Road.

Next stop was Kawarau Bungy Center...to watch people bungee jump from the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. Apparently this bridge is renowned for being the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping. In case you're curious on how much it costs to bungee jump here, it's NZD 205 ($134) per person. Thanks but no thanks. 

Since it was still early (5pm), we decided to stop by Arrowtown for dinner at The Fork and Tap and sightseeing before checking in to our hotel in Queenstown. 

The small town of Arrowtown lets you step back in time to the early New Zealand gold rush era. The buildings reminded me of Old Western buildings in the US.


Finally, made it to Holiday Inn Queenstown at 7pm after 12 hours of driving! This hotel looks dated from the outside but the interior was recently renovated. Best part about this hotel is the panoramic view of Lake Wakatipu. Unfortunately, there was no view from our room in the ground floor, but at least we were able to park right in front of our room! =P

Utilized the 4th night free perk for the IHG Premier Credit Card to book 4 nights for  a total of 60,000 IHG points...pretty sweet deal! Update: The nightly points cost for this hotel increased to 25,000/night starting March 2019.

This was how I earned 60K IHG points with the IHG Select Credit Card (before it was discontinued) to book 4 nights at the Holiday Inn Queenstown Frankton Road, and received 6,500 IHG points in return. I was able to stack the benefits from both IHG cards (4th night free and 10% rebate). So all in all, the 4 nights in Queenstown only cost 53,500 IHG points. =)


That's all for day 2 of our road trip in New Zealand. Stay tuned for the next post! As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map and itinerary to help you plan for your New Zealand adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.




Saturday, March 9, 2019

New Zealand Road Trip 2018 ✈ Hokitika

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

New Zealand 10D9N Road Trip:
Day 1: Hokitika 
Day 2: West Coast & Lake Wanaka 
Day 3: Milford Sound
Day 4: Glenorchy
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Christchurch
Day 7: Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo
Day 8: Wellington
Day 9: Lake Taupo
Day 10: Auckland


After two relaxing days in Fiji, it was time to big goodbye to the warm weather and continue our journey to New Zealand, where we spent the next 10 days road-tripping both North and South Island. It was a lot of driving, but self-drive was definitely the best way to see this scenic country!


Nov 27 (Tues): Fiji - Christchurch - Arthur Pass - Hokitika (254kms)

As mentioned in my previous post, Fiji was a free stopover thanks to Alaska Airline's generous stopover rule on award redemption, so our flight from Nadi to Christchurch didn't cost us anything extra. As you can see from the photos, it was pouring that morning. We were definitely very lucky with the sunny weather the last 2 days. =)

Our flight departed on time at 9.30am. The 3-hour flight on Fiji airways was pretty good. Plenty of leg room, breakfast was served (free), and we had a row of 3 seats to ourselves.

Landed at Christchurch airport at 1.30pm (1 hour time difference between Fiji and NZ), and was welcomed by rainy/foggy weather. The complimentary rental car shuttle picked us up from the airport and took us to their warehouse/office 5 min from the airport.

We booked the rental car in July (4 months before the trip) and managed to find this awesome deal from Dollar Car Rental. 4-days one-way rental for only NZD 94 ($58) in total was definitely a steal! We declined the insurance as we were able to use the primary car rental insurance that comes with our credit card (Chase United Explorer). The staff who helped us with the paperwork and inspection of the car was very nice too. I'd definitely recommend this rental car company to anyone planning a trip to New Zealand.

We booked a compact car, but was given a complimentary upgrade to a Toyota RAV4. Honestly, I'd prefer no upgrades when it comes to rental car because bigger car means higher fuel consumption but at least it's still a Toyota. =P Since New Zealand drives on the same side as Malaysia (opposite of US), I was the designated driver for this trip. We've got this who-drives-where arrangement nailed down. =P

We started driving westbound after leaving Christchurch at 2.30pm, with a brief stop at Castle Hill. First part of the drive was rather uneventful and the gloomy weather doesn't help either.

Made it to Arthur's Pass around 4.30pm. We read that this is one of the most scenic drives in the world but I felt like the gloomy weather ruined it for us.

Random 'tunnel' along Arthur's Pass with a traffic light. =P

On our way to Hokitika, we drove by a remote area and saw a lady frantically running towards our car, and screaming for help. We weren't sure what was going on but decided to stop and rolled down my window slightly. Apparently she was out jogging and ran into an area filled with bees and got stung. She asked if we could drive her back to her campsite/hospital. We weren't familiar with that area but agreed to take her back to the campsite so that she can seek help from the campsite owner. Random detour but glad we did something good.

Finally arrived at the small town of Hokitika, where we planned to spend the night. We were hoping to see the sunset from Hokitika beach, but decided not to wait till 9pm. 

Dinner at Fat PiPi's Pizza in before heading back to our Airbnb and call it a day.

Checked into our Airbnb ($55), had a quick chat with our host, Helen and played with her puppy. The house was small but having a good shower and good night's sleep was good enough for us.

That's all for day 1 of our road trip in New Zealand. Stay tuned for the next post! As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map and itinerary to help you plan for your New Zealand adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.


Winter 2018

Here we go again...another winter, another busy season. As mentioned in my previous post, this year's busy season started early and it's easily one of the sh*ttiest busy season I've had in 9 years, for various reasons. I try to stay positive about work but we faced so many adversities this year and there's only so much of 'human-created sh*t' that I have bandwidth to deal with. In this environment where the bar keeps being raised to an unrealistic level, I'm really starting to doubt the sustainability of this path.

Anyway, enough of work rant. Busy season is not over yet but I shall take some time to reclaim my 'life' back by doing something non-work-related (i.e. catch up on my blog). =)

Dec 6 (Thurs): Returned from our 2-week trip and got a panic-attack as soon as we got home when we realized that all of bro's online purchases were shown as 'delivered', but we didn't see anything on our front porch. Fortunately, our kind neighbor had been helping us to pick up the stuffs and brought over a full bag of boxes (like Santa) after we called him...phew!

Dec 24 (Mon): Christmas with the family. Thanks SIL and BIL for hosting!

Jan 20 & March 3: Birthday celebrations for BIL and SIL.


For all of January and February, almost all my awake hours were spent working...

Spent significantly more time with co-workers in the office than with hubby at home. I got home past midnight most nights and he was already asleep, so we only 'saw' each other on weekends...how sad right? But looking on the positive side, at least this is only for few months out of the year, and we don't mind hustling and working hard while we can.


'Perks' of busy season...free meals at work (so that we can work even more).

At least we were fed well...lol! 

We all know how bad it is to be sitting all day looking at the screens, and even eating in front of the computer. Attempted to get some exercise at the office gym but that lasted for only few weeks before things went sideways in February.


Despite the crazy work schedule, I'm proud to say that I stayed consistent with meal-prepping for hubby every Sunday. Simple but healthy. =P

Dec 9 & 16 (Sun): Stir-fry pork & veggies, fried rice with fry egg, mussels soup, egg sandwich.

Dec 22 & 30 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, Hainanese chicken rice ball, stir-fry pork & veggies, fried rice with fry egg, Bak Kut Teh, egg sandwich.

Jan 6 & 13 (Sun): Mussels soup, tomato-tomyum pasta with stir-fried beef and veggies, rotisserie chicken, Campbell's wicked Thai soup.

Jan 20 & 27 (Sun): Fried rice, stir-fry veggies, fry egg, stir-fry noodles, stir-fry pork, chai boey, Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

Feb 3 & 9 (Sun): Alfredo sauce pasta with stir-fry veggies and sausage, rice with stir-fry pork and veggies.

Feb 17 & March 3 (Sun): Pan-fried potatoes with stir-fry veggies and sausage.


Retail therapy when work got too stressful...

Yes, we really bought a sloth from Walmart...for ourselves...lol!! And my usual <$10 Uniqlo shopping when there's free shipping. =)

Planning trips and booking flights to curb burnout and keep me going during busy season. Booked a total of 3 trips for the year in January...with points & miles. =)

Random freebies from work - one for opting out early for office phone line, and another for doing a free physical health exam. =) I really like the bluetooth headphones.


Things I missed out on during busy season...

Niece and nephew were born on Jan 30, 2019. 2nd generation of Twincredibles. =P Such cutie pies! Little boy had to go through a surgery and was admitted to the ICU for the first 2 weeks but glad he's doing good now.

Officially aunt of 3 nieces and nephew. Looking forward to cuddle them in few months!

Feb 4 (Mon): Missing out on Chinese New Year but glad to see photos of the fam bam. =)

That's all for round one of busy season. Round two to be continued in next post...