This week’s road trip destinations: Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell, Clyde, Alexandra and St. Bathans’ Blue Lake.

Today is my off-day for the week and hence an opportunity for yet another road trip to nearby places from Queenstown. For this week, me and my friend were opting for St. Bathans’ Blue Lake with several stops along the way; Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell, Clyde and Alexandra. St. Bathans is only about 2 hours drive from Queenstown.

This will be most likely our last one-day road trip from Queenstown as we will be soon embarking on a full-time road trip (over 2 months) across the entire New Zealand from mid of next month. We have about a little more than 2 weeks of work left before The Remarkables ski mountain closes for the season. It is already spring here and temperature is getting much warmer now.

The first stop of the day is at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. This bridge is the location for the famous AJ Hackett Bungy Jump (world’s first commercial bungy jump operation). Well, I was just a spectator watching other people doing the stunt. I find the price too expensive and I also don’t think I have the courage to do that.

Next, we moved on to Cromwell, a town known for many fruit orchards surrounding it. That is why we saw a huge fruits’ sculpture there. We also went to explore its heritage precinct located next to Lake Dunstan. Beautiful lake view along with several restored historical buildings in that area. We didn’t left the town without a brief stop at the town’s lookout point.

After that, we went to Clyde. Here, we quickly viewed the Clyde Dam, Clyde Bridge and passed through its old town. We didn’t spend much time here as we have to go straight to Alexandra for lunch and more stops ahead. At Alexandra, we checked out its Historic Bridge and saw the famous Clock on the Hill.

We then went to our last stop; St Bathans’ Blue Lake. It was actually an old mining pit. Once it was abandoned and then slowly filled with water, the remaining minerals in the soil gave the lake a distinctive emerald color. The lake is surrounded by exposed cliffs and walking tracks. When we viewed the lake, we didn’t really find the lake’s color striking (probably due to the cloudy weather during our visit). It is more to greyish and I have no choice to edit the colour of the lake’s photos to make it more emerald-like as it should be.

There goes the end of my one-day road trip today. Not too tired (distance is not that far and there isn’t much walking required today as well). Before ending the post, I would like to inform that my blog here will be witnessing its 14th anniversary tomorrow (28th September 2022). Happy 14th birthday to my blog! Started way back in 2008 and I’m still having it pretty much active with frequent new posts (thanks to me) and constant views (thanks to you)! It is certainly on a roll!

(Image above is from Freepik)

A spectacular one-day road trip to Milford Sound, Te Anau and Manapouri.

Me and my friends originally planned to have a quick one-day road trip to Cromwell, Alexandra and St. Bathans yesterday. However, we had to postpone the plan after noticing bad weather from weather forecast we checked on Monday. Then, we saw that the weather would be perfectly fine today at Milford Sound and hence we immediately agreed to this destination for this week’s road trip instead.

If you didn’t know what is Milford Sound; it is a fiord (long narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs created by glacier) located on south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. The place is about 4 hours drive from Queenstown and is acclaimed as the country’s most famous tourist destination. It has been always called as the eighth wonder of the world too, hence a must-visit place when you are in New Zealand!

We took a cruise for a leisurely sightseeing along the fiord. The cruise took a little less than 2 hours and goes all the way close to the mouth of the fiord that opens up to the Tasman Sea. Spectacular cliffs, breathtaking snow-capped mountains, impressive waterfalls and pristine waterbody surround the area with every view along the cruise that will leave you truly amazed. It is unfortunate though that we didn’t get to see any wildlife though that are usually spotted there like seals, penguins and even dolphins.

There are also much lesser waterfalls visible today as compared to videos taken of the place by other people in the past that were shared on YouTube. One of the best parts of the cruise is that they brought us closer to one of the larger waterfalls to have a real feel of the intensity of water falling off from a great height (although the time the cruise stopped there was too brief). Anyway, the views are no less spectacular and the overall place do reminds me of Halong Bay at Vietnam with very similar features.

We didn’t just go to one place today for the road trip. There were also a lot of beautiful lookout points along the way to Milford Sound from Te Anau. We also spotted a lot of kea (a threatened species of large parrot native to New Zealand’s South Island only). By the way, we also paid a quick visit to Te Anau (checked out its beautiful lake and had lunch at this town) and Manapouri (also saw its lake and beach) since these two small towns are along the route to Milford Sound from Queenstown.

We depart from Queenstown at about 5.30am and only returned home at 8.00pm. Certainly a long tiring day but was feeling great and awesome to have visited Milford Sound. Truly a remarkable place.

The end of an era; UK’s Queen Elizabeth II passed away yesterday at the age of 96.

Having been the monarch for United Kingdom for over 70 years, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully yesterday (8th September 2022) at Balmoral Castle, Scotland at the age of 96. A figure well admired and respected not only by the UK but also by the world, Queen Elizabeth II was ”the rock on which modern Britain was built, who had provided us with the stability and strength that we needed” (quoted by UK Prime Minister Liz Truss in her speech).

Besides being the Queen of United Kingdom, she was also Queen of 14 other Commonwealth realms including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. She was also the Head of the Commonwealth. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days made her the longest of any British monarch and the second longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country.

She had lost her husband, Prince Phillip last year and had recently just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee early this year. With her death yesterday, her eldest son, Charles automatically becomes the new King of United Kingdom (formally called as King Charles III). Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral will be held about 10 days from now and will be attended by world leaders. United Kingdom has entered into a period of national mourning in memory of her.

Though Britons rarely looked to the monarchy for political leadership, Elizabeth II has been a steady presence highly esteemed by many throughout decades of significant change that saw Britain transform from a war-weary declining imperial power into a modern multi-cultural state. she oversaw the last throes of the British empire, weathered global upheaval and domestic scandal, welcomed 15 prime ministers (from Winston Churchill all the way to Liz Truss who she appointed only few days ago), and dramatically modernized the monarchy.

The Queen was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926. Few could have foreseen she would become monarch but in December 1936 her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated from the throne to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father became King George VI and, at age 10, Lilibet, as she was known in the family, became heir to the throne.

Within three years, Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, spent much of wartime at Windsor Castle after their parents rejected suggestions they be evacuated to Canada. After turning 18, Elizabeth spent five months with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and learned basic motor mechanic and driving skills.

Through the war, she exchanged letters with her third cousin, Philip, Prince of Greece, who was serving in the Royal Navy. Their romance blossomed and the couple married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947, with the prince taking the title of Duke of Edinburgh. She would later describe him as “my strength and stay” through 74 years of marriage, before his death in 2021, aged 99.

Their first son, Charles, was born in 1948, followed by Princess Anne, in 1950, Prince Andrew, in 1960, and Prince Edward, in 1964. Between them, they gave their parents eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya in 1952, representing the ailing King, when Philip broke the news that her father had died. She immediately returned to London as the new Queen. “It was all a very sudden kind of taking on and making the best job you can,” she later recalled. Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, aged 27, in front of a then-record TV audience estimated at more than 20 million people.

Elizabeth reformed the monarchy for this less deferential age, engaging with the public through walkabouts, royal visits and attendance at public events. Her commitment to the Commonwealth was a constant – she visited every Commonwealth country at least once.

But there were periods of private and public pain. In 1992, the Queen’s “annus horribilis” (year of disaster or misfortune), fire devastated Windsor Castle – a private residence as well as working palace – and three of her children’s marriages broke down. After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car accident in Paris in 1997, the Queen drew criticism for appearing reluctant to respond publicly. There were questions about the monarchy’s relevance in modern society. However, she remain popular to the public to these days and very much beloved for her utmost dedication of her life as the Queen,

Rest in peace, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (21st April 1926 – 8th September 2022). We have lost a global icon, a beacon of unity and a motherly figure to the world. Her death truly marks the end of an era.


(Images in this post are from various online sources)

A day at The Remarkables to ski and to check out the lookout point!

It’s a perfect day today to go up to the mountain to ski. It’s crystal clear morning with not-too-cold temperature. It feels like as though spring has arrived. Even some of the trees on the streets start to blossom already…no more bare deciduous looking. There isn’t too many people up at The Remarkables today too compared to yesterday when I was working there. Me and my friend also do not need to wait too long for a public bus with available seats to bring us up to the mountain today.

I think it has been almost three weeks since I last went for skiing. It’s certainly time to get back on this sport and to brush up my skill before the ski season ends mid of October. I was a bit nervous today though because the ski area was actually very crowded. Whenever I made turns or slide down, there would be a number of people on my way…and to be honest, I’m still not good at avoiding people and keeping a safe distance from the others. Well, at least I didn’t fall badly today (did fell two to three times today but not as bad or as painful as previous falls few weeks back).

We didn’t head up there just to ski today. After having lunch in the restaurant (bumped into many of my colleagues…haha), we took a chairlift to the designated sightseeing area near the summit of the mountain (Treble Cone). Then, we took a hike on the snow up to the lookout point. It was a short hike but quite a challenging one due to the steep slope and the snowy/icy walking surface (it’s all snow!). Luckily, I did brought my ski poles to assist me on this hike. My first time hiking on full snow!

The view up there overlooking Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps are breathtaking! It was quite windy up there too. My legs were a bit trembling due to the height of the place and the constant slippery and steep slope! After some photo-taking, then we head back down to the base building and then immediately took the public bus to return home to avoid crowd queueing for the buses later on.

Where else can you get views like this from so high up?! It’s simply incredible. For tomorrow, I’ll just stay at home and continue on our research on our upcoming road trip in New Zealand. By the way, it’s Malaysia’s 65th Independence Day celebration tomorrow! Happy Independence Day to Malaysia!

One day trip to Wanaka today; climbed the Roy’s Peak track and saw the famous Wanaka tree.

What a day! I reached home at about 3.30pm after a tiring day trip at Wanaka today. Why do I call it a one-day trip when I’m already home by 3.30pm? That’s because I left my home for the trip at 3.00am midnight. That’s more than 12 hours out there. Two of my friends were on board and hence there’s three of us in this trip.

We drove for a little over an hour to reach Wanaka from Queenstown. Our first stop was the famous Roy’s Peak track. It is one of the most popular one-day hikes in New Zealand. We started climbing at around 4.40am. We wanted to be able to catch the sunrise view at the lookout point and hence we started our trip that early. As it was still midnight, we were in awe of all the stars (and the moon of course!) and saw a bit of the Milky Way too.

In general, the track requires 6 hours to complete including the return trip (hence approximately, 3 1/2 hours to reach to the top and another 2 1/2 hours to get back to the base of the track). But for us we spent about 7 1/2 hours in total (that’s 1 1/2 hour more than the general time required due to us being very keen to take a lot of photos and videos).

The track is a challenging one despite its mostly well-graded track surface and wide path. Most of the track is quite steep and some of the areas are slippery due to muddy surface. Certain parts of the track at the top are also covered with thick snow/ice too (expected as it is winter now). There is a lot of cow dung too along the track. It is a 16km long journey too (close to 1300m ascent to the lookout point or 1578m all the way to the summit)! I think this is by far the most difficult and time-consuming hill track that I have ever attempted. It does require a lot of stamina and a lot of breath! Haha…

We were not able to reach the lookout point by the time sun rises (around 7.30am). Hence, we stopped at a slightly lower elevation to rest for a while and to check out the sunrise from there instead. It was still a spectacular view! After that, we continued the climb for another hour to reach the lookout point; the ultimate spot for breathtaking pictures and videos! The panoramic view over Lake Wanaka and the surrounding peaks is incredible…Usually, there would be a lot of people queueing to take photos at this lookout point. However, when we were up there today, it was only three of us most of the time and hence we got the area all to ourselves! Yay…

There is still another 30 minutes climb required to reach to the very summit of the Roy’s Peak but we do not have any more energy or determination for it. View from the summit is also very similar with the view from the lookout point. Hence, we were all satisfied to end the track at the lookout point (which many people do) and proceed to head back down.

After completing the track, we went for a quick lunch in Wanaka town and then went to check out the famous ‘That Wanaka Tree’; a lonely tree that seemingly grows directly out of the pristine waters of Lake Wanaka.

It is most likely New Zealand’s most photographed tree. It is a must-do when you are in Wanaka. After that, we just do have any more energy to check out other attractions in the town and decided to call it a day. That’s okay. We would still come back to Wanaka during our road trip later this year to check out the rest of the stuff this beautiful town has.

Gave up waiting for bus to ski today and ended up going to Bob’s Cove.

Me and my friend have originally decided to go up to the Remarkables mountain to ski this morning. That’s our usual once-in-a-week routine. However, we waited for almost 2 hours (Yes…that is a freaking 2 hours!) at the bus stop today and all the public ski buses that passed through were all full. My patience ran out and I felt so frustrated. Hence, we headed back home with no longer any mood for skiing. What a disappointment! The bus transportation is really bad.

So it’s time for a change of plan for the day. We made a quick research and chanced upon a short walking track at Bob’s Cove with quite a spectacular view. Bob’s Cove is located merely less than 20 minutes drive from Queenstown (along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road; the same road we took to Glenorchy last week). So why not? After a quick lunch at KFC in the town, we then headed to the Bob’s Cove Track in the early afternoon. The weather was also pretty nice today (mostly sunny as opposed to cloudy condition reported in the weather forecast).

This track is pretty short and simple (3km including the loop to the lookout point and only takes 1.5 hour return). However, the last stretch of the track to the lookout point is very steep (it was quite scary for me when walking down that section…my legs were literally trembling that time). The view at the lookout point is spectacular. Besides that, the crystal clear bluish-green coloured water at the cove is so mesmerizing. Definitely time for a lot of photos again.

The scenery is just so striking and spectacular, isn’t it? We then finished the day with weekly grocery shopping at Frankton and had an awesome dinner (though pricey) with housemates at an Indian restaurant close to our home. If weather is good and I’m not lazy, then we may head up to the mountain tomorrow instead for skiing. We’ll see how it goes.

Off-days activities this week: Ski at The Remarkables, Queenstown Hill walk and a quick visit to Glenorchy.

Tuesday and Wednesday are my weekly off days from work at The Remarkables ski restaurant and hence these two days have become my ‘weekends’ now. It was very good and clear weather on those two days this week and hence I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to head out for some fun!

On yesterday, me and my friend head out back to The Remarkables not to work, but to ski. I fell down much less often this time and managed to complete one entire beginner’s (green) route without any fall at all. That was an improvement that I’m quite happy for and it looks like my skiing skill is progressing. The snow was pretty good and it was clear and sunny all day long yesterday, making it a perfect day for skiing.

The schedule was a bit more busier today. In the morning, we went for a walk up to the Queenstown Hill, The track up to the summit of the hill took about one and a half hour. Some parts of the track are quite steep and also slippery due to several icy and wet surface (this hazard is expected when you are hiking up a hill during winter). It was quite an exhausting hike but the view at the summit made up for it! The panoramic view over Queenstown, The Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu and all the mountains at the background are truly spectacular! There was also an interesting sculpture called ‘Basket of Dreams’ near the summit where you must not leave without taking a picture with it. Then, it took us about 45 minutes to head back down from the hill.

In the afternoon, we went to Glenorchy, a small town about 45km away from Queenstown (about 45 minutes drive from Queenstown) for a quick trip just to snap some cool pictures. The most photographed landmark in that small town is none other than the small Glenorchy Wharf Shed in red colour. There is also a jetty just behind the shed that offers visitors another spot for some photo taking as well with snow capped mountains and the lake as the backdrop.

Since we were already in Glenorchy, we travelled a bit further up to a rural place called ‘Paradise’ which has been used as settings in films and television. I have no idea why the place is called ‘Paradise’ but at least now I can say I have been to the ‘paradise’ on Earth! The surrounding area here is pretty much empty and is used for sheep and cattle farming. Finally, we head back to Queenstown in late afternoon for an early dinner at a Thai restaurant before going back home. It was a tiring but a very satisfying day with fascinating visits to Queenstown Hill and Glenorchy (took so many photos today…) before ending the day with an awesome dinner!

Impromptu half day visit to Arrowtown.

I’m down with a light flu these two days but that doesn’t hamper me from going on an unplanned half day trip to Arrowtown just now in the afternoon. A friend of mine suggested going to this particular town which is only about 20 to 30 minutes away drive from Queenstown earlier today. Since I have not been to the town before and it’s quite a nice weather (sunny and not too cold with temperature reaching to 12 degree celsius) today, I’m in. Arrowtown is a former gold mining town and is now one of the most picturesque settlements in New Zealand.

Before turning into tourists and exploring around Arrowtown, we actually had a task; walking someone else’s dogs as their owners were not at home (they are staying in Arrowtown as well). The two female dogs were so adorable and well behaved. We took them for a short walk in their neighbourhood for about an hour before bringing them back to their home. We realized a lot of homes around there do have dogs as their pets. On the other hand, hardly any cats around.

We then moved on to the most popular street in Arrowtown, the Buckingham Street. This is where most of the restaurants, cafes and retail shops are located with a great heritage vibe. There is also a museum (Lakes District Museum), post office and a pharmacy here. We go for the gold panning at the Arrow River just behind the street (have to hire a gold pan for NZD 5 dollar from the museum). As expected, we didn’t get any gold in the end but it was an interesting activity though.

Before leaving Arrowtown in late afternoon, we also managed to check out the Chinese Settlements (area showing tiny little restored/preserved huts of early Chinese settlements in the Arrowtown back in 19th century), historic police camp cabin and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. There goes the end of our quick 5 hours visit to Arrowtown. It is quite a small town and we have already managed to visit most of the attractions over there today. Will perhaps visit the town once more next time.

There goes the end of my 2-days break as well. Gotta be back to work tomorrow.

Brief review for TVB series ‘Communion’ and my ski update.

I’ll start off the post with my brief review of yet another TVB series that I have finished watching recently. It was the 8th TVB series I have watched this year so far. It is a 15-episodes drama titled ‘Communion’. It starred Roger Kwok, Alice Chan, Kalok Chow, Rico Ng, Joey Thye, Matthew Ho, Hera Chan, Tsui Wing, Shek Sau, etc. The story revolves around a man who owns a traditional Chinese restaurant. He struggles to reconnect with his estranged wife who runs a much more successful restaurant business empire with the same name.

I do enjoy its fast-paced storyline. It is a pretty short series too (only 15 episodes!). I felt that this story can be slightly expanded to 20 episodes though. The cast has done great job and there’s quite a great chemistry between all of them including the seniors and the younger ones. Overall, the series has quite a lot of hearts in it and I enjoyed watching it. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Communion’ 8.0. It is also the first time that a Hong Kong series features story about virtual reality/computer technology heavily. That’s interesting!

It’s almost end of July now. Last week I did have a plan to visit Arrowtown and go for night ski but those plans didn’t went through due to the predominantly bad weather last week. It was raining all day long on my planned day to visit Arrowtown. And on the day for the night ski, when I reach up the mountain, it was all too foggy and a bit of shower as well. The condition isn’t good at all especially for a beginner like me. So, I ended up travelling back down to the town.

Anyway, I did manage to go for ski this week (went up last Wednesday). Still falling down quite a lot of times (they do hurt and felt pretty exhausting to get back up on my feet every time). Have tried on new route but is still on the novice’s level. I would be no where close to intermediate level yet based on my present condition. Well, practice makes perfect. Hope that I can be much smoother on the novice’s routes next week onward and then my plan is to get to intermediate’s routes before the end of this winter season. Yup…that’s the goal!

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

Time to begin research on places to visit at New Zealand after the winter season…and a brief review to TVB series ‘Big White Duel 2’.

In three more months, we will have to leave Queenstown to start on our full-time travel across New Zealand before our working holiday visa ends on early December. If we are not able to complete the planned trip before early December (and we have to leave since our working holiday visa expires by then), we will most probably go on a brief stop to a city in Australia and then departs back to New Zealand to finish up the remaining planned trip.

We have actually not making any real plans yet on our full-time travel around New Zealand as mentioned above despite being here for over a month by now. It’s time to commence on the necessary research to plan out the road trip across North and South Island, choose the suitable walking trails at the picturesque national parks, find cool complimentary and paid attractions to visit, search for budget-friendly guided tours and accommodations, etc. There’s quite a lot of homework to do to ensure the full-time travel later on will go as smooth as possible without missing any major destinations while staying below our budgets and schedule.

So far, some of the places that I am keen to visit later on would be the Milford Sound, Hobbiton (sets for the famous Lord of the Rings film series), Kaikoura (for whale watching!), Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Wai-o-Tapu pools, Lake Tekapo, Bay of Islands, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, Blue Pools, and some adventurous national parks. We will certainly cross through these cities or towns as well along the way; Oamaru, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Nelson, Rotorua, Hamilton, Auckland, etc.

On a side note, I have recently completed watching a TVB series called ‘Big White Duel 2’. It is a medical-themed drama and is a direct sequel to 2019’s ‘Big White Duel’. This 30-episodes drama starred Roger Kwok, Kenneth Ma, Moses Chan, Nancy Wu, Natalie Tong, Kelly Cheung, etc (that’s 3 TV Kings and 2 TV Queens there!…what a cast!). The first series didn’t leave a huge impression on me and yet it won best drama at the TVB Anniversary Awards that year.

I actually think this sequel is slightly better than its predecessor. It features more cast (Moses and Nancy are great addition here, although it is a bit disappointing that Ali Lee who was in the first series dropped out of this sequel), more relatable accident-driven medical cases, and more engaging conflicts between the characters. That’s all for my review on this drama. I have nothing further to comment. It is a solid drama that stays in the same path as its predecessor (similarly going in a distinct political direction) rather than the typical storylines of plenty of previous medical dramas. Out of 10, I rate ‘Big White Duel 2’ a total of 7.7.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)