SINGAPORE 3rd – 5th JUNE 2019

It’s almost like coming home arriving in Singapore now. We had the frequent visitor pass in our passports so whizzed through immigration etc and off to our hotel. This time we’re at the Holiday inn express, Clark Quay and it’s a great set up here included breakfast buffet is great and as it’s busy they’re restocking frequently, our room is smallish but comfortable and we have no complaints about non maintenance.

The first evening we had an amazing steak dinner together with Allison and her James at a restaurant just downstairs from their apartment at Marina one.

A bottle of wine which we hadn’t had since we were probably there last time went down a treat as well.

We picked up our things that we had left with them, thankfully, as at Penang airport they weighed our carryon and at 10 kilos each were over their 7 kg limit.

So our hi vis vests finally came in to play, we went off got them out of our bags put them on stuffed the many pockets they have full of our iPads, kindles, phones, I put a pair of shoes, raincoats, etc in mine, James had his snorkel and mask in his. Hilarious but hey we got those carryon bags down to the required weight.

Luckily we’re using our frequent flier points to fly business class to the UK so our carry on weight won’t be a problem, apparently we’re allowed two bags up to 23kgs each as CARRYON! As long as they fit the measurements we’re good to go.

Our first morning after breakfast we took off walking around for about two and a half hours. Really the more we come here the more we see, so interesting and it’s easy walking except the humidity. There’s a lot of similarities between the old architecture in Singapore and Malaysia with the Shop houses and street art. There are also a similar mix of religions as well. We walked one street and went past a Hindu temple, a mosque, a Christian church and Chinese temple.

We had a date with our friend Catherine that we met on a day cruise of the Doubtful sound in New Zealand, high tea at the Goodwood hotel near Orchard street. What a beautiful property and an amazing buffet of goodies.

Catherine is another avid traveller and it was a lovely way to catch up, two and a half hours went in a blink.

Back to our hotel to face the final pack for our trip north to the UK and then Spain, plenty of new adventures to look forward to.

Luckily our last day here in Singapore was a public holiday and Allison and her James had the day off so we were able to check out and take our bags to theirs and spend some of their day off together strolling around part of the botanical gardens. It really is stunning and apart from the amazing plants etc we saw big lizards and turtles.

But the humidity got to us all and two hours was more than enough to decide to head back to theirs to relax pool side before we had to say our final farewells and head to the airport to enjoy the Business class lounge before our flight to the UK.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT SINGAPORE.

The more we went the more we saw to like.

There’s still a lot more to do here that is on our list but the humidity really means you should take it slowly.

It’s easy to be here with English widely spoken and it’s first world Asia for those who can’t cope with more basic facilities as found in some other Asian countries.

Cheap food can be found and is brilliant at the hawker markets.

Afternoon tea is a real thing here and not only popular but sensational.

Taxis are cheap and they also have grab and gojek.

The airport is great if you need to spend time there before a flight.

Flights to other Asian countries are easy and cheap from here.

PENANG, MALAYSIA. 24th May – 3rd JUNE 2019.

This had been a highlight day of our cruise in 2018 so we were keen to spend a bit more time mooching around and seeing some of the sights we missed on that one day visit.

We booked to stay in an old Shophouse building now run as a guesthouse on Noordin st.

We had a warm welcome and our large room was well appointed and the furnishings were in keeping with the style of the property which retains much of its original charm.

It was a great location for seeing the city but with the heat and walking everywhere draining we booked a scooter after the first day and are keeping it till the end of our stay in Penang. This allows us to keep the walking around for places of interest not just as a way of getting there. We see so much more with the scooter.

Below is the shop we hired our scooter from. They were fantastic and easy to deal with and made sure they gave us rain coats due to the unpredictable weather. We used them several times.

We booked four nights at Noordin st House and it was quite easy to see that for the first three nights we were the only guests, though they tried to deny this. We didn’t see anybody, hear anybody and the dining room was set just for the two of us each morning.

On our last day quite a few guests checked in and of course there were more settings at breakfast and we could hear and see these totally Real people moving about the property.

Unfortunately maintenance was not their forte and a lot of the public areas were in need of repair, cleaning and tidy up, a shame as we particularly booked it as it had a pool but there was just too much green algae around the sides to contemplate a dip.

But! This was a great base to see all of the famous areas of Georgetown and surrounding areas, including the artwork on the shop houses, the clan ferry wharfs, little India etc etc.

A highlight was having Sen and Ana two sisters we met on our Cosmos Christmas tour in 2017 picking us up and taking us to little India for lunch on James birthday, they even bought a cake with a candle to sing happy birthday.

These two awesome girls have traveled themselves a lot over the last six years or so and constantly looking for new places to tour. Their personalities are infectious and we could spend hours talking to them about their lives and travel bucket lists.

Georgetown is great for the architecture of the Shophouses and the six different recognised styles depending on the era they were built. They give Penang a real sense of character and charm.

An English film company was in town filming scenes for a film based on earlier days in Singapore.

We booked after arrival in Penang our last six nights at the Copthorne orchid at Tanjung Bungah. A little out of the centre of Penang and coastal but an easy six or seven kilometres back in if we want to head there.

It’s quite a bit tired but we have a balcony with sea view, breakfast included, a massive pool and a great little village of restaurants, food markets and convenience stores just a five minute walk away.

We did enjoy the sunsets in the evening from the balcony.

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We found a German style restaurant serving huge meals so shared one between us which we often do. Bought in some supplies and headed back to relax and enjoy the serenity.

Our first full day over in our new location we ventured out after breakfast on our scooter and went to places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise and this is exactly what we love. Just riding around wherever we happen to like the look of and discovering little pieces of local life away from the tourist trail, that’s not saying we don’t love ticking of the favourite spots, they’re favourites usually for a reason.

Late Lunch back at the German restaurant was a shared salad and iced tea. Then it was poolside to read and swim, finishing the day with a dinner of British style fish and chips.

There are a lot of great looking little beaches with clean sand along the coast but I’m not sure the water looks that inviting, and there was a sign we saw somewhere about toxic poisonous stingers, not sure if that’s seasonal or not.

As the days drew closer to our leaving date we had one full day not venturing out anywhere new and just going over to the local village shops for dinner and spending the day lounging around reading.

Another day we rode off after a lovely breakfast at a local cafe (breakfast at hotel not that great) and went to the Kek Lok Si Temple. WOWSERS! All I’m going to say is that’s it’s well worth the trip, it’s free and there is quite a lot to see. I’ll pop in some photos of this incredible Hindu temple for you to try and grasp the size and work involved in creating such a wonderful place.

The sheer workmanship alone is hard to take in. The most intricate sculpting in stone is breathtaking.

In one area they had stone statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. There was also quite a few other stone animals including the very adorable seats with dogs depicted at each end and also some rather strange ones of tortoises mating!

Having enjoyed our breakfast the day before we headed back to the same cafe the next day and met a couple we had spoken briefly with a few days before, as we were both just arriving at the same time we sat together and enjoyed a wonderful hour swapping life stories.

Brian and Sue are a couple about to move to Penang to live after living in Singapore for some years. Originally from the Uk and South Africa their life of moving and living in quite a few different countries was fascinating. Certainly hope we catch up again sometime somewhere.

From breakfast we took off on our scooter north up through the mountains and past the tropical fruit farms including Durian farms, which you smell as you get closer to the side stalls selling them.

The first photo below is a tree with Durians growing,they have been covered by newspapers to protect them before harvesting.

We stopped several times to take photos and put raincoats on and off as the weather changes very quickly here as in most of Asia. We rode into little villages on the flat and located next to rivers where the colourful boats were moored up, we sighted a large monitor lizard, wild monkeys swinging from branch to branch, as we rode around the winding roads up and down one mountain and the next, completing a circle ride of about half of the island before arriving back safely to our hotel to give our bums a rest.

Our last day began with breakfast with Ana and Sen in Georgetown, we ate like kings and queens for next to nothing and loved every minute spent with their exuberant personalities and zest for life.

We left them with promises to see them again and a possible road trip in Malaysia together or who knows maybe meet up overseas.

We drove into the centre and had a coffee and I purchased another pair of trousers from the lady on the Chin Jetty.

Not sure if I should have as two days later in Singapore I found the first pair had repairs needing where the fabric has pulled away.

This is becoming more of an ongoing joke as I bought two pairs in France they lasted less than a month, I bought two pairs in Bali one didn’t last a week. The other made it to two weeks.

Oh well that’s life…

After my quick purchase it was time to hand the scooter back and get back to our hotel for some packing and relaxing before heading out for our last meal in our local town.

The Copthorne Orchid hotel had a great pool and fairly comfortable room but it’s very tired and putting a bandaid on the problems as they come up isn’t satisfactory for either the guests or the staff.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNT ABOUT MALAYSIA.

It’s a great mix of cultures.

It’s pretty great value.

It’s countryside is cleaner than Bali.

English is pretty widespread.

The architecture is interesting.

The people are friendly.

There seems to be a lot of empty apartments.

Some families are living on the equivalent of $400 Aus a month.

As with a lot of Asia maintenance on properties including hotels doesn’t seem to be a priority.

The temples are incredible.

The countryside is beautiful.

Three nights in Kuala Lumpur 21-24th MAY 2019

Kuala Lumpur was an easy flight and once again we used the grab app to get around. This had been more expensive than taxis in Phuket for some strange reason, so it was great to find them excellent value in Malaysia.

Our hotel was the Park Royal serviced suites and we were soo comfortable there. It was really a one bedroom apartment. The hotel boasts two outside pools, one on the rooftop with incredible views of the city lights at night.

It’s Ramadan but it’s the first time we hadn’t felt in the least bit uncomfortable about eating and drinking during the fasting hours due to the mixed population.

We quickly found a local cafe/ restaurant which was to our liking and ate there most of the time Feeka is the name should you be in the area.

We were always warmly greeted with a “welcome back” to this very popular and incredibly well priced establishment. The food was so delicious I told them if I lived in KL I would never need to cook again.

We spent the rest of that day just checking out the local area on foot and planning our two days itinerary.

One disturbing feature was a homeless man obviously drug affected who sat on the side walk in the same spot the whole time we were there. His underwear was non existent and his trousers completely ripped from the front to the back fully displaying his genitals for everyone to see. I’m not sure what the go is but he seemed to be getting given food from someone.

We spent our first full day getting dropped off at Central market which from where we were able to walk and see lots of the sights. Temples, mosques, little India,Chinatown and the markets where the Muslim folk shop for clothes etc.

We visited a beautiful Hindu temple just as they were starting their prayers and were not hurried out, just allowed to observe quietly.

A huge downpour saw us huddling under an awning before getting a ride back to our hotel.

Our last day we took a grab to the Bantu caves where they have recently painted the stairs going up in bright colours making it a great photo opportunity for tourists and devotees as well.

The Bantu caves has Hindu temple inside and wonderful gold statue at the bottom of the stairs all adding to the charm.

There are monkeys there, a lot of monkeys and they work for peanuts! Had to say that as it’s what James quoted while we were there.

A lovely gentleman was selling bags of peanuts for five Malaysian ringette and was the best cheap entertainment ever.

The monkeys were very gentle on the whole and we had great fun feeding them one peanut at a time.

Actually we thought it was a highlight of our stay in KL.

From there we took a grab to Colmar Tropicale YES WELL let’s say it was a lovely drive in the countryside but the resort village of Colmar Tropicale was a HUGE overrated experience. At new it was probably a pretty place to wander and grab a meal but now it’s a pretty sad affair with most places shut or should be. We had a coffee and walked around and sad to say that took up half an hour and we were out of there.

Glad we hadn’t booked to go there on a tour! Fancy wasting several hours in a dilapidated ghost town with nothing to do.

Back to our favourite Fekka for late lunch and again for dinner.

Breakfast was included at The Park Royal suites but to be honest it was very ordinary.

We felt we could have spent more time in KL so will keep it on our stop over break list.

Next stop PENANG, MALAYSIA.

PHUKET, THAILAND 7th – 21st MAY 2019

PHUKET, was the first of a few destinations we chose to spend our remaining time in Asia once we decided that we would go early to the UK to spend their summer there house sitting. The trip would be two weeks Phuket,3nights Kuala Lumpur then ten nights Penang Malaysia before heading back for two last nights in Singapore.

We got some great flights on Skyscanner covering this segment of our travels. All four flights for around $230 each.

We arrived at Phuket airport after paying to upgrade our seats for extra leg room at around 9:20 pm. The exit through was very quick and with quite a drive to Patong we were glad for that.

We have never been to Phuket before and hadn’t done a huge amount of research.

We chose to stay in Patong beach for our first three nights and then book on from there.

Hmmm. What can I say about Patong except it’s not really our scene.

Our hotel The Tropica bungalows when we arrived was right opposite the beach and in the hub, great we thought, lively surroundings for a few nights, until we were escorted to our very well appointed room where we couldn’t actually relax due to the throbbing thud thud loud music coming from the parallel Bangla road with its night clubs, bars and sex shows.

We were quickly back at reception and changing rooms and although smaller was a lot less noisy than the last one, the thud thud was NEARLY covered by the sound of our aircon and ceiling fan.

It’s a real shame as the hotel is lovely, great pool, great room amenities and the included breakfast buffet is excellent. Around $56 a night.

The first full day we spent walking the area and having one very expensive coffee at The Coffee Club, we worked out taking all into account the mug of flat white was around $10.

We ventured out after our first full day but our second night for about an hour but after being harassed a hundred times for ping pong ball and live sex shows decided we’d seen enough of Patong night life and headed home, only to be assaulted by the morons next door drinking outside and carrying on till 6am. At about 4:30 I had finally gone to sleep as the thump thump finishes at 4 am to be woken at 5am by morons singing take me home country road!

Our last day saw us very sleepy and not tooo motivated. After another excellent breakfast we rested in our room, swam in the pool, went out for another extortionate costing coffee before we found a local family mart that made a half decent one for 30 baht or around $1.50 .

We went out for an early dinner around 5 pm again as we had done the day before as again hadn’t eaten since breakfast and a nice meal on the beach with a glass of wine went down well. We watched the last of the days parasails as the sun set over the beach and by the time we arrived home the thump thump was just starting up as it was 7 pm.

While we were out we booked our next three nights in Karon beach staying at The Baan Karonburi and another three nights at the Bandara Phuket beach resort. We’ll see how they go before booking on again, but want to spend our last night at least nearer the airport with our early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur on the 21st.

The weather gods haven’t really been favourable here so far. The first day had a lot of rain and the second day overcast with just a short shower in the afternoon.

Karon beach was sooo much nicer than Patong even though in distance it was really not far at all. It instantly felt more relaxed and the beach looked a lot more inviting with cleaner looking water and some waves.

We didn’t actually ever sit on the beach there or swim in the surf a closer look at the dirty water going in from storm water was enough to put me off and we actually hired a scooter for two days and went exploring more of Phuket.

We followed the coastline up towards Naithon on one of the days and decided that we would spend our last night here due to its proximity to the airport.

The other day we rode the coastline south and then across to the Big Buddha.

Here they have cleverly given free admission but you can buy a copper coloured leaf to write your name and date on and tie to one of the many trees covered in these thin metal leaves. There were literally thousands of them and looking at the dates they must clear them at the end of each year as they all had 2019 on them.

The views are awesome as expected as there is a view of The Big Buddha all around the island.

I’m so glad that James has ridden bikes most of his life as I would hate to be riding in Asia with no previous experience.

The one thing we noted was that a lot of the beaches and villages looked great from a distance but up closer are suffering from that lack of rubbish removal that you find in so much of Bali etc. a real shame. We were beginning to feel that this would likely be our only trip to Phuket as we were hoping to find something cleaner than Bali but with similar pricing. So far that wasn’t being the case.

We had booked three nights at Bandara Phuket beach resort after speaking to some fellow Aussies whom had just stayed over this way. Luckily for us we decided to check it out.

What a find. The area is more exclusive private villas than teeming with resorts and as it’s the off season fairly quiet anyway. The beach is clean and water a lovely turquoise and our hotel was excellent value. If only it had the great breakfast buffet of the hotel we had in Patong it would be perfect. Breakfast is included and there are choices just not as great as the other hotels we’ve stayed at.

We walked along the beach and quickly decided we would book another four nights and just take a day trip to Phi Phi Island.

We took the photo below as everywhere we go we seem to find a bar called The Ship Inn.

The food from the menu here has been great value and a good choice (unlike the breakfast) and with two drinks for price of one between 12-2 pm and again 5-7pm meaning $5 cocktails we’ve been happily going through the cocktail menu.

We again hired a scooter for a day and checked out a bit more of the area, not finding anything we liked better than where we are, so it’s kindles out and relaxing before we fly for three nights to Kuala Lumpur on the 21st May.

We did take a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands and great value too as it’s low season 2000 baht (around$100 Aus) each instead of 3200.

Transfer from hotel to port with coffee, tea and bikkies while we wait for all the transfers to arrive. Then onto the speedboat and away…..

Maya beach has been closed to tourists but they still take the boat in to have a quick look and photo opportunity along with Viking cave . A couple of really great snorkelling spots including two hours on an island and buffet lunch at Phi Phi Don complete a wonderful day and the weather played nice. It was a full boat of around 30 and James and I along with one other Australian couple were in a real mix of Asian tourists , USA and even the Bahamas was represented. One thing we’ve noticed in Phuket is the large contingent of Russian tourists.

Back to our hotel in time for happy hours 5-7pm and it was a three cocktail night Swith a spicy pasta for dinner ending a great day.

The photo below is the hotel at night and Anna the lovely waitress who was just delightful.

We spent our last two full days basically pool side. The Saturday was Australia’s Election Day and most of the Aussies here we’re keeping each other updated.

Outside the front of the hotel each evening they put on a bit of street food and music and two nights we’ve gone down to eat.election day was a Buddhist holy day and no alcohol sold at hotel or local family market so it was fruit juices and an alcohol free day, actually there were beers in the minibar in our room James thought about them just as we decided to go to bed…

WHAT WE’VE LEARNT ABOUT PHUKET.

It’s not as cheap as Bali.

It’s good to travel here early off season to get great hotel and tour deals.

Don’t stay at Patong… EVER

a scooter is a great way to get around as taxis are expensive here.

Research research research for the cleaner beaches.

Stay close to airport if you have an early flight.

Bali: April 16- MAY 2nd 2019

The flight from Singapore to Bali is just 2 hours 40 minutes and it took almost that long to get through the airport, even without baggage to collect and get a taxi to our hotel.

We are familiar with Sanur and like it’s less than hectic vibe. This time we were staying at a different hotel from our other visits and have been pleasantly impressed so far.

Our room is large, big bed, good aircon, decent sized bathroom and with cleaning daily, breakfast included along with a shady pool area to relax at the $30 a night price tag is sitting very comfortably with us.

As usual we prefer to eat at the local night food market, where for around $5 we eat some delicious street food as well as often striking up conversations with other tourists, many who come from Europe to Sanur.

Shopping in Bali isn’t the bargain it once was with a lot of the clothing better value at K Mart but I bought a new lava lava or sarong depending on where you come from and a couple of pairs of long pants which I probably didn’t barter enough for but as I said to James what the heck I’d rather give the money to someone who’s life it more impacts on than a large conglomerate. The stalls are quiet here and I think it’s been like that for quite a few years now.

Our taxi driver from the airport told us he had worked for the same boss over twenty years and the bosses are mostly Chinese. He gets paid the equivalent of Australia $250 a month which almost half goes on rent for two rooms, the other half on food and schooling.

The days have been spent waking and eating breakfast anytime and heading

to our favourite cafe The Owl which in our opinion has the best coffee in Sanur.

We also find the food flavoursome and not much more than the market.

Not too many long walks as it’s too humid but the evening is much more pleasant for strolling around the town or walk along the ocean side.

The one thing you need to know about Bali is that differs seasons the beaches attract the rubbish. At the moment Sanur is copping it and Kuta area is probably ok. So a walk on the beach side this time of year here can be disappointing, though we managed to get a few good shots.

One has a cruise ship leaving Benoa Harbour and another you probably have to look really hard but there’s about a dozen dogs having a nap under the shade of a tree.

Locals enjoying the beach late afternoon.

Luckily we are more interested in relaxing by the shady pool with our hotels wifi while we check out some house sits for the UK.

Yes we’ve had a change of plans, instead of travelling through Asia for the next three months or so we have decided to cut away sooner and head to the UK for their summer.

We just loved our time there last year and when James mentioned he wouldn’t mind going up before we head to Spain I thought why not. We love the countryside and all the history so with house sitting we’re getting everything we want. A real home that has all the comforts of home, a dog or two to take on walks and have some adventures with, discovering new areas to walk in and pubs and cafes or a cat or two for some lap love. Of course the fact that no money exchanges hands means we are able to stay there longer and spend our money on a rental car and doing some touristy things.

We’re thrilled with the sits we have confirmed so far and really looking to living like real locals, the face time with the home owners has been awesome because they’re all just super lovely people.

James has just about shaken the cold he picked up on the last few days of the cruise and that’s another good reason to just chill out here while he gets better.

Luckily by Friday 26th he’s well enough to hire a motor scooter and we take a ride over to Legian, Seminyak and then to Canggu where we found a great little place that served meals and let you use the pool just up the road from Finns beach club.

How good did that pool feel after a few hours riding and walking! Bliss pure Bliss.

It was a great change of pace and I think next time we’ll look at staying over that way for a new take on Bali.

As much as we’ve loved Sanur it seems very quiet and after four visits here it’s probably time to shake it up.

The following day and still having the scooter we decided to take a ride to Nusa Dua and just maybe we might surprise Christine and Tony at their super flash resort The Melia.

The ride there was a highlight as we got to experience riding over the incredible bridge on the motorcycle track which was awesome.

We did indeed surprise Christine and Tony by the pool and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting overlooking the beautiful beach front.

They were living the life over there that’s for sure.

Our last few days and been spent walking down a few back streets and discovering a bit more of Sanur, plenty of pool relaxing where we get to meet some of the other pool guests including Melissa, Enzo and their little fella Max. They gave us the heads up on a great app for Indonesia called GoJek check it out if you’re coming over here to Bali.

We’ve had some great laughs with them and will hopefully meet them again sometime, somewhere in the world if not Australia where they also come from.

Melissa and Max making friends at the hotel with some locals on holiday.

Isn’t this a great petrol station below.

All the crew going for a locals cremation. not to be mistaken for a happy street parade.just saying!

James and Ratty.

James and Ninja, well we call all black cats Ninja after our one.

Found this lovely restaurant down a lane way. Cheap food, great atmosphere and decor.

All of a sudden it was our last full day, so after breakfast and our usual coffee at The Owl, where the girls wanted to take photos with us, James hit the gym and then we had our last 90 minute massage with complimentary hair wash. We decided we would hit the beach side cafe Luhtus which in the past had been our go to hang for our last lunch.

Back to our hotel before it was time to get ready grab a Go Jek to Legian to meet Bruce and Anne Doyle for drinks and dinner. Great night great company, yummy food, a bottle of wine for the girls and coffee espresso martini’s all round to finish the night.

And now it’s time to pack those bags again and fly back to Singapore for our family holiday with Allison, Scott, Andrew and Jett.

Another adventure awaits.

TWO WEEKS IN AUSTRALIA A CRUISE AND THREE NIGHTS IN SINGAPORE. MARCH 14-APRIL16,2019

It seems we have a bit of a theme happening at the moment. Two week stays except our three nights in Singapore at the end of our cruise.

After 24 weeks in New Zealand it seemed like a surreal feeling of leaving home to go home.

We ran into the first person we knew on the train home to Central Coast. I hadn’t seen Robyn King for several years so was great chatting all the way home.

Jacki, James daughter and partner Adam meet us at the station and it was hugs all round.

We picked up our truck from storage and headed to our friends Christine and Jim’s place where we had been offered accommodation downstairs at their home.

BINGO! we win… what a great little apartment, everything we needed to enjoy our next two weeks. A kitchen, dining, lounge, bedroom and bathroom. I particularly loved the recliner chair that also spun around. I think every time Christine or Jim passed by I was in it.

Christine had thoughtfully stocked a few things to make our first days easy. In fact they were so amazing we were humbled by their generosity and kindness.

The two weeks flew by as always, catching up with so many of our dearest friends and family including all four of our children living in Australia.

A few office type jobs and professional visits filled in the rest of the days and before we knew it we were packing our suitcases again and heading to the train station to travel to the city to start our cruise to Singapore.

EXPLORER OF THE SEAS, MARCH 29-APRIL 13, 2019

SINGAPORE.

We had been looking forward to this cruise as we were to be travelling with our dear friends David and Janine who I have known for over 30 years.

What a great time we all had. The ship was The Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the seas. We had never travelled with Royal Caribbean before but were very impressed overall.

We easily fell into a little routine of breakfast at 9 am together unless it was a shore day. We would pick out what we would do together that day and meet at the scheduled times and enjoy lots of laughs and of course the wonderful dinners then shows.

Our first stop was Brisbane and we had organised to be met by Gay and John who we met on our world cruise in 2017. They are great fun and we had a lovely time catching up, they are about to do the world cruise again this year lucky ducks.

At lunch time Warren and Leanne came to do the tag team switch, and over a lovely lunch we were able to talk about our reunion trip that we are doing next year together with some of the people we both travelled with in 2010 where we met.

It was a great day catching up with people who have remained part of our lives mostly because of the an enjoyment of travel and thanks to Facebook.

Our next two expected stops were Airlie beach and Cairns and it was extremely disappointing that the weather didn’t allow for these tender only ports to be accessed. We were mostly disappointed about Cairns as we were going to catch up with our mates Julie and Matt whom we also met on our 2017 cruise. They are incredible fun and I know we will see them again sometime as they’re just too special not too.

Fortunately Darwin was a two day stop and with a dock everyone was glad to hit land for a few days.

James cousin Tony and his beautiful and bubbly wife Judy picked us up for an amazing day and evening of food, drink, great company and family time.

We had the pleasure of meeting their wonderful daughter Nadine last year when we were there on another cruise and this time we got to see her again and meet her lovely partner Stephen and his grand parents who incredibly were on our cruise.

The next day Tony and Judy once more picked us up and took us shopping for the few things we wanted then we enjoyed a wonderful wine or two, ok three at the waterfront oyster bar before it was time to hug them goodbye and sail off towards Singapore.

On the last few days of the cruise we finally got to enjoy some chilling by the pool days which had been sadly lacking due to the weather.

We also grabbed some great sunset shots.

SINGAPORE APRIL 13-16, 2019

And then just like that we were off the ship and taking a taxi van to our hotel where Janine and David’s friends Mark and Jay were also staying having flown into Singapore a few days earlier.

We managed to share one breakfast with them and a fabulous high tea at the Fullerton Bay hotel, highly recommended. Both couples were leaving the same day as us but they would be headed home to Australia and we to Bali.

Our time in Singapore was mostly to spend time with daughter Allison and it was wonderful to see her and enjoy some quality time together. Unfortunately James had caught a cold on the last few days of the cruise but he managed a few of the outings and also got to rest as well.

We had a lovely dinner with her partner James and his family as well as time relaxing by the enormous pool area at their apartment.

Allison lives and works in the same four tower complex. It has some pretty incredible architecture and the most amazing pools. Other than the Olympic size swimming pool there is a smaller heated one and even one that has gym equipment in it, such a great idea. You can use a rowing machine and bicycle etc while keeping cool in the water!

Allison and I also did a pretty extensive walk around town and all the way to their place with a little stop for iced coffee atop of the art gallery which had a great view.

Dinner at a local hawkers market ended a great day.

Although it was sad to say goodbye as we left Singapore to fly to Bali it wasn’t as difficult, knowing we would be back in just over two weeks to enjoy a family long weekend reunion with her two brothers and our grandson Jett.

Road trip 2019 Wellington – Te Atatu and last two weeks.

First day back in the North Island bought a pretty big travel day to New Plymouth via the coast road which didn’t really bring much of any views of the coast but was nice drive all the same.

Whanganui bought us our lunch stop and a real surprise at how big the town was and how many beautiful old buildings there was. Another gem.

As you drive closer to New Plymouth you begin to see the unique feature of Mount Taranaki ( Egmont).

It’s an outstanding natural feature of Taranaki.

New Plymouth is hosting an Americana weekend and we had noticed a few cars waving American flags. We drove into the city but didn’t see much happening but we did pass an American style diner with some groovy old cars parked outside.

We booked some accommodation on booking.com for New Plymouth but it’s more an Airbnb setup with separate accommodation under the couples main home.

Our stay in Wellington was a beautiful huge en-suite room in a Victorian home. Where the carpet is original and still in great condition and obviously made especially for the room with border pattern around fireplace and room edges.

The weather improved the next day for our trip through state highway 43 better known as the forgotten highway.

All the great scenery you expect from Taranaki, rolling mountains, Sheep, cows, goats and more of those windy roads. Whangamomona is the township well should I say The republic of Whangamomona is where people come to either stay overnight or take a meal in this historical town that time forgot.

We had a ham salad sandwich each that was huge, then after checking out the village moved on through towards Tokaanu a small thermal town on the shores of lake Taupo, NZs largest Lake. Our accommodation would best be described as rustic but we had a bathe in the private onsite thermal pools and relaxed.

The next day we drove into Taupo and had a coffee etc before driving to Huka falls. A lot of new paths and infrastructure has been put in since we used to visit 30+ years ago and was highly enjoyable just walking and watching both the falls and the jet boats as they rode people in as close to the falls as they could.

Onto Rotorua and after looking at the entrance fees to the geysers decided that as we’d seen them in Iceland and I had been to all these thermal areas in years past we would after having a walk around the waterfront look for some accommodation close to a beach for a few days total break from driving.

A place came up in somewhere I’d never heard of but checking on the map close to where we’d been looking. The price was great and the photos showed a comfortable property right on the sand dunes with a hot tub positioned on the dunes that looked fantastic. We hesitated thinking it all looked too good for the price but decided why not so pushed the book button got a confirmation and set off to paknsav to stock up before heading to Pukehina for our three nights travelling respite.

What a find. The beach was mesmerising and we didn’t bother leaving Pukehina till we were forced to leave as our reservation couldn’t be extended due to other lucky people having booked it.

Bliss, good weather, books to read, waves crashing on the beach just metres away, very very few people around to be seen, and the night sky just as mesmerising as the sea.

Thursday the 28th February saw us sadly heading off and we decided to call into have a decent look at Waihi beach as the weather was still beautiful and it was lovely to have a beach walk there and a sandwich and coffee in the village before heading into Waihi town for another quick look around and then back to Te Atatu before the after work traffic makes the trip tiresome.

Back into Te Atatu and staying at Graeme and Kirsten’s where dad is now comfortably living back at after his three months in the hospital system due to his fall in October.

Friday saw us driving into Auckland city to catch up with Paul and Michelle who drove down from Omaha so we could meet our mutual friends Laurie and Chris that we met on our 2017 world cruise and Chris’s sister Marilyn and husband Kevin.

We began our day driving the waterfront to the lookout past St Helliers looking out over the Hauraki gulf and Rangitoto the famous volcano that is a predominate feature of Auckland harbour.

Coffee, scones and muffins down in the village was followed by Parnell rose gardens, Auckland museum and the winter gardens at the Domain and into Parnell for a walk through the town which is character filled due to the historical homes been turned into shops and restaurants. By now it was around 4pm and a bit of belly fuel was called for. We sat eating and chatting and then it was time to drop them off at the ship so they could walk to the viaduct before they sailed away to their next destination Tauranga.

Paul suggested we went for a drink back at mission bay to allow the after work traffic to abate before driving to our respective abodes. Great idea and sitting on a balcony upstairs overlooking all the happenings below Michelle and I enjoyed a jug os sangria and the boys a jug of beer. It was around 8pm when we got home from a great day of catch ups and touring.

Ps we all got in for free at the museum by pretending we were all Aucklanders.

After spending a day at home cleaning the car and going through photos on my iPad we packed up our car on Sunday the 3rd and headed up to Omaha to spend our last little beach holiday with Paul and Michelle at their comfortable home.

The weather has remained excellent and so an afternoon swim was had before we popped the champagne and Michelle cooked a beautiful lamb roast dinner. We ended up staying up past midnight watching a three part quirky show called Mrs Watson.

Come Monday we packed up the esky and their land cruiser and headed to Pakiri where we had a great walk and picnic lunch.

Paul lead us on a tiki tour on the way back where we found alpacas and awesome coastal views.

Mathieson Bay was our swimming spot and swimming out to the pontoon was fun before we relaxed and cracked open a beer each for the boys and a vodka and lime and Soda for us girls.

We took advantage of the ten dollar burger deal at Matakana rusty pelican on the way home.

Another evening spent watching a three part mini series called Manhunt. Good show with. Martin Clunes.

Tuesday the boys went off climbing a mountain which they said was pretty hectic and like climbing a ladder.

Michelle and I went into Warkworth where Michelle had an appointment and I mooched around the shops grabbing a few bargains for our next adventure and we enjoyed coffee and scone before hitting countdown and heading home.

Swims at the beach was what was making this feel like a real kiwi summer holiday and with a few sundowner drinks and great home cooking along with enjoying laughing with our friends it always seems like the time to go comes around too soon. Thursday morning came around and we hugged our mateys goodbye till the time we see each other again somewhere in this big world.

Part of the countdown to leaving N Z was of course getting our car sold. James did a terrific job of cleaning it up to look new and it was posted online and sold within a few days.

Little blue was a great purchase and did a grand job getting us safely all around NZ, it was brilliant to see it going to a fairly new driver who will have a reliable car as they hone their skills on the road.

Craig had us over for dinner along with Rex for a night of much alcohol consumption, food , laughs and we managed to get Craig to play the piano. An impressive effort after about 15 crownies.

Kirsten’s friend Natalie and partner Albert came over with sparkles to say farewell on the Saturday night and then came on Sunday to take James for a swim while I tried to get this all sorted.

Monday Graeme took Dad, James and I to Takapuna and onto Red Beach where we got dad out of the car and on a park bench to have lunch and soak up the beautiful sunshine and sound of the waves. This was the kind of day we had been hoping to share with dad more but with his fall we’re cheated out of.

as the days to our departure get closer it’s time to look at all the things we’ve accumulated and sort out the packing.

eeek we are taking more home than we came with and spent our last Tuesday packing our check in bags full of motorcycle clothes and helmets and other things I wanted to take home from mum and dads house to keep.

Final family dinners, Farewell phone calls and of course beginning to make plans for our two week stay in Australia.

Well New Zealand it’s been incredible. Thanks everyone who made the time to catch up, host us and share time with us. Met some fantastic new friends and we leave behind lots of amazing memories.