Last week, I had a chance to visit Tokyo on the back of a business trip… and it was an incredible experience! Despite it being such a large city, it is very easy to move around on foot and using the metro (once I figured out how to get a Suica or Pasmo card), and I was able to check out all these top spots in about two days. Here they are, in a very non-scientific order of preference:
- Waitomo glowworms
- Tongariro Crossing hike
- Abel Tasman beaches and hike
- Cook National Park hike and the views from Lake Pukaki
- Road trip, and stop in so many great spots: lush hills in the North Island, Huka Falls, Punakaiki pancake rocks, Blue Pools, Lake Tekapo, etc.
At the end of our 2 week road trip around New Zealand, we spent 3 days in Queenstown. To be honest, it was one of the least impressive parts of the trip, it just couldn’t compete with the natural wonders of Tongariro, Abel Tasman or Mt. Cook. But it was a good point of entry/exit, and there was enough to do to keep us entertained, so sharing our favorites here:
Rotorua might very well be the most visited attraction in New Zealand. And I can see why: there is a lot to do, both in terms of nature and maori culture, and it’s very conveniently developed. But because of that, it’s also lacking the charm of the rest of the country. We got to Rotorua after an enjoyable 2 hour drive from Waitomo Caves, most of it through endless green pastures that, for no good reason, had us screaming “burgers” every time we saw healthy-looking cows.
- Penang, its street art and food
- Diving in Sipadan
- Orangutans in Sepilok
Back from our unforgettable liveaboard in Sipadan, we found ourselves in the harbor town of Semporna, Borneo, with no specific plans. The area is known for its paradise islands, with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, but unfortunately, most of these have been taken over by all-inclusive luxury hotels, like the spectacular Kapalai. The weather was also not looking particularly good, but we were resolved to explore at least a bit of this rather unknown area.
Ok, let’s be honest: Kuala Lumpur is not all that interesting. Despite being one of the hubs of Southeast Asia, the capital of Malaysia doesn’t have the buzz of Bangkok or Singapore, nor the charm of Yangon or Phnom Penn. It might be a good place for an expat to live in, but in terms of places to visit, I would put it near the bottom of my list, probably below Manila, tied with Saigon and only above Vientiane. Having said that, there are a few sites to keep a traveler occupied for a day or two…
Penang was he first stop in my trip around Malaysia, where I landed from a Taipei layover / quick visit. Despite the long trip, I still had the energy to get on a public bus (401) toward the central street Lebuh Chulia. The bus took ~45 min, the same a taxi would, and cost RM2.7 ($0.6) vs. the RM38 ($9) of a taxi. Once in the central area, it was easy to find a decent hostel for RM40. I took a quick walk and swallowed some delicious char kway teow (fried noodles) from a stall, before heading to bed – the next day would be a long one.
Similarly to Dubai or Singapore, Taipei is a fantastic city to visit on a short layover. I was on my way to Malaysia for a 2 week diving vacation, and had booked a cheap flight through this airport, without giving it much thought. Once we touched ground, I realized that I had nearly 6 hours until my departure to Kuala Lumpur. I immediately checked on my phone whether I needed a visa (short answer: no for most nationalities, but check the latest info), and if I could see the highlights of the city in just a few hours (short answer: yes). This was my step by step itinerary, which I would call very successful 🙂
One of the things we really wanted to do in our time in Australia was interact with the autochthonous fauna. We wanted to spend time observing koalas and kangaroos, beyond our brief encounters in Hamilton Island and the Red Center, respectively. And we wanted to get close and touch the animals, if possible. A bit of online research showed us that Queensland was the best state to do so (koala cuddling is not allowed in Sydney / New South Wales, for example), and that the Cairns Tropical Zoo was the perfect place.