Monday, 25 January 2010

A New Year But Not A New Start

Woah! I can't believe that it's been more than a month since my last post! Where does the time go? Something that I've learnt the hard way is that it takes far more time, energy and money to set up a new life than thought that it ever could. That is to say, I am now settled into Brisbane, NSW, Australia; but it just took absolutely forever to do. Despite all of the hardships and the effort, I have to say that it is such a worthwhile endeavour, just knowing that I have completely stepped out of the shadow of my parental wing and am able to live as an independent human being........Now if only I could become a productive member of society. (I guess we all need a goal to strive towards!)

But I digress, at the point of my last post I saw still somewhere deep in the bowels of New Zealand. However, due to the immense passage of time since that point I can't give any specific details of my adventures; so here is a brief list of activities that I did and whether they were worth it or not:

1) Bungee jumping - a common link with NZ and something that I would both recommend and deter you from. It was a thrilling experience that left me with vertigo for nearly a month afterwards. Worth doing if your a thrill seeker, otherwise its just funny going to some of the sites such as the Kawaru Bridge and laughing at the silly people wetting themselves before falling into a river. BTW there are loads of other adventure activities such as skydiving etc to try out to if your up for it.

2) Hiking - if your a tourist in NZ its pretty much a given that you will hike somewhere. If like me your not much of a nature lover there are still some walks that I would urge you to try. Especially the ones that lead somewhere fun, like secret hot water springs where you can skinny dip in the comfort of knowing that no one is going to come for hours, if your more pessimistic, take a swimming costume, but defiantly do go. You can also go hiking on two glaciers on the South Island and that can be a great, yet very very tiring day out, and sadly any souvenirs you try to bring back will melt before you make it back to the start point!

3) Hot Water Beach - this is a bizarre phenomenon on the western side of the North Island where at low tide you can go dis a pit into the soft sand of the beach which will fill up with hot water from below the ground. This was just so much fun to do, it is a must whether or not you like the beach (and who doesn't like the beach?). On the South Island you can go to sulphur springs in Roturoa, but be warned take air freshener with you as the air has a very eggy flavour.

4) Sushi! - strange that I put this is I know, but an unexpected twist to my Kiwi experience was that practically half the population seems to be of the oriental persuasion. This was great for me since I got to practice my pathetic Japanese while eating a lot of Korean BBQ. This does tire after a while though but since the only other real culinary option is pies, sometimes you feel as if your stuck between a rock and a hard place and must persevere on a diet of fish and rice.

5) Shopping - only one word - NONE! Sadly, NZ seems to be in a relative time warp of bad fashion and a dire lack of malls. Unless you want to pay above the odds for surf labels or have a budget that lets you shop at Prada, your best bet is to take enough clothes from home to last you for the duration of your journey.

Well, I seem to have exhausted my advice on visiting NZ. Ultimately, I had a wonderful time and met many colourful people - most of whom were backpackers too, but still there were some Kiwis mixed in there. I would highly recommend a visit as its a country worth exploring. And the best part is that it's so similar in the way it looks and the climate to England that you'll feel like you've never left home :D

Next time.....a new life down under xx

Monday, 16 November 2009

A quick update

I apologise but this is going to be a very short post. This is mostly due to a lack of pre-planning on my part and a very slow internet connection that has resulted in me taking far longer than I should have to sort out all of my little internet odd-jobs which I wanted to finish before settling into my post writing.

Something that I realised was that I never set the scene for my hike across New Zealand and my previous post just jumped into the fray. So I will set the stage, albeit a little retrospectively.

Our plan has been (and currently is) to road trip down New Zealand, starting off in Auckland and ending up nearly one month later in Christchurch. For those of you who do not know (and don't have the time to look it up on wiki) New Zealand is split into two islands, imaginatively named the North and South islands. The North Island has the majority of the population of the country as well as the capital city - Wellington. By contrast, the South island has amazing panoramic scenery and adrenaline packed activities.

We started our journey in Auckland, in the North island and have steadily worked our way south powered along in our tiny rental car. The previous post just gave some general commentary on my views of the country and the next post will give greater details of towns and activities that were undertaken. xx

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Oh look! A sheep!

I apologise for taking so long to provide the next exciting instalment of my travel adventures. Since my last post, I left Dubai and made my way to Auckland, New Zealand. Suffice to say, Auckland was not at all what I was expecting. Perhaps it was due to the heady heights of commercialism that I had just left in Dubai, but I found Auckland, known to be the largest city (by population) in New Zealand a far cry from the brimming cosmopolitan city that I was expecting. That is not to say that I found it a total backwater, but there was just something that was lacking....

In any case, I didn't make these observations upon my immediate arrival as both Mr F and I were so tired from out twenty-seven hour flight (including the time difference) that once we had located a suitable hostel we passed out and slept the sleep of the dead until the following morning. The following day (Wednesday 28th October if your interested to know) we set off on our excursions. We saw the Sky Tower as one of our highlights of the city - its the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. After witnessing the worlds tallest tower in Dubai just days before visiting the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere, I started to feel like I has seen enough tall towers to last a life time. That is unless someone decides to build another worlds tallest tower in another few years.

Something that I am constantly struggling to get to grips with in the country is the complete lack of drive to work. The vast majority of businesses - including government run institutions, such as museums - do not open until 10am and then shut again by 4pm. Coming from a country (and a profession) that cannot conceive of such a short working day, I fail to understand how any business of any real financial value can be achieved in such a short space of time. If you count out an hour for lunch you have a five-hour work day. That's part time in my mind! Not to mention how badly it hinders my touristic activities! We were forced to stay an extra day in Auckland as the museum had closed by the time we got there at 4.30pm! On the other hand, I can understand why so many people choose to immigrate here, with ridiculously short working days New Zealand is the personification of the phrase "work to live not live to work." Many of the older people we have spoken to have come to New Zealand from the motherland for that same reason. Many of them avid sailors who are afforded the time to pursue activities which they would never have time for in the UK.

A further interesting point is the fact that the price of living here is far greater than I was expecting. From speaking to the locals, it appears that there has been a steep increase (some say as high as 40% in the past ten years) in the cost of living. That factor coupled with the fact that the pound Sterling is currently on its knees against most other world currencies means that we are finding things pretty expensive!

But that is not to say that things are all bad. Quite the opposite in fact. The beautiful countryside and landscape which is similar in many ways to that of the British countryside gives off the impression that you are constantly living in a childhood memory, perhaps of a picnic you had on a warm spring day in a field full of buttercups. Its all very romantic. Moreover, we have been taking our time on this road trip and stopping off at all the local attractions. The quirky characters we meet more than make up for the garish excuse for the towns here. One lady in particular, who we met at a local potters studio was by a long way the most interesting character I have met so far. A child of the sixties she them emigrated to New Zealand in the seventies where apparently the sixties revolution was currently still in its prime. Having enjoyed two decades of hedonistic pleasure she settled at the potters studio to make artwork as her source of income. Its hard to convey the excitement she exuded when talking about her heyday and about current world politics. She was so charming that we bought a little egg separating device in the form of a smiling face from her. I wish we could have bought more, but I think I have already discussed the high prices in New Zealand.

Another highlight is the fact that there are wineries on practically every major road that we have taken and we have got into the habit of stopping of and sampling the produce. I have to say, as someone who has predominantly drank European wines (predominantly from Spain) I am quite taken by the local produce! So much so that we have quickly polished off the bottles that we bought!

Well my time at the Internet cafe is drawing to a close so I will have to close off this post. I will aim to get another out as soon as I can. xx

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dubai - the city built on a house of cards

So the story starts in Dubai, the land of excessive wealth (for some) and flashing lights. Since I've been to the city several times before, as I have an uncle who lives there, I felt fairly confident that I would know my way around and be able to show Mr F around without too many problems. I was mistaken. Its only been 4 years since my last visit yet due to the impressive speed at which the Arabs construct their buildings it felt as if I was visiting a whole different city!
There is a whole new flashy mall (which I think is the biggest in the world) complete with an aquarium, cinema complex and indoor amusement park (think indoor Alton towers). There is also a monorail system in operation, but as it still only goes to a limited number of stops we found it easier just to take taxis. The worlds tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which in essence looks like a giant penis, will complete soon at the impressive height of just over one kilometer! This will make it nearly double the size of the next tallest building, the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota.

The amusing "my penis is bigger than yours" contest that Dubai has with the rest of the world is constant source of confusion for me. I fail to understand why a city-state which is in vast amounts of debt to it's neighbouring UAE states continues to build as such a rapid pace. When walking around the streets and looking up at all the skyscrapers with "to let" signs on them making up the bulk of the advertising, I have to wonder why do they want to build more when they can't even get people to fill out the buildings that they have available now? But these are just my musings, I don't know enough about the underlying economy to fully appreciate the randomness of mass construction.
The sheer opulence of the city is starkly contrasted with the mass influx of immigrant workers, who predominantly come to the city to work in the construction trade - after all, there's plenty of it going. They have set up camp on the other side of the river to the CBD. No doubt because the city doesn't want its tourists to be bothered by the poor.

I personally prefer hanging out in areas such as Nassar square - a shopping/market area where the workers live and tourists are few and far between. After all, who wants their perfect expensive holiday marred by the sight of poverty? You go to Dubai for opulence, wealth and high powered air-conditioning after all. Who wants to be outside in the baking 33 *C heat? But since I have seen my fill of shopping malls and have no need for (another?) Gucci dress, I found it much more satisfying spending only a few dhiram on my meals and bartering for t-shirts that I didn't really need. Isn't that what real travelling is about?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Welcome to The Travelling Mimi

Hello Everybody!

This is a blog that I have set up in order to keep in contact with all of my lovely friends during my time away. Rather than send out emails to people who probably don't want to read them, my friend Harps suggested that I set up a blog so those who are interested in the progress of my journey can find out what I am up to - and hopefully this will entice people to get in touch with me and let me know the goings on back home :D

As most people are aware, I leave for ten months of travelling on 22nd October. The planned route is: Dubai, New Zealand, Australia, India, Nepal, Tibet and China. But this is open to change depending on obtaining visas, cash flow etc.

I'm travelling with my boyfriend/husband (how do you define the person that you have religiously but not legally married?!) who is the brains of the outfit so should anything go wrong I shall be able to put all of the blame on him! Hehe!

Well that's about it for now. My next post will come after I have actually gone somewhere more exciting than my bedroom (where I am currently writing).

Happy reading xx