Birthdays, Hobbits and a DeLorean

We’ve tried our first Cambodian food, trying out Yeay’s House in Tawa, one of Wellington’s suburbs. Very tasty. There is a bigger variety of chicken options available on a regular supermarket shelf for us here. We have found some amazingly colourful yams and buddha’s hand citron’s in a shop called Moore Wilsons here. Local lingo update: sweets here are all called ‘lollies’. There are many different names to get your head around and pronounce correctly. The letters ‘wh’ at the beginning of a place name (e.g. whangerei and whakatane) this usually denotes an f sound. Mastering quite a few train lines with all this suburb moving, I look forward to a pub quiz in a few years time that asks the names of train stations in Wellington :-). My fun Wellington fact – apparently 90% of Wellington’s residents live within 400m of a bus stop or train station… I feel for the 10%! There are some very steep, winding roads!

So what have we been up to? Well amongst the madness of job seeking and understanding visas, we’ve been doing our best to try out a few new places. With certain Belgian’s celebrating 28th birthdays we tried out Goldings Free Dive, on a list of Wellington craft beer haunts to be visited. Trying their pilsner, and old faithful maker’s mark, their food offerings are from Pizza Pomodoro next door. Highly recommended pizza! Very tasty, cool vibe, it is one of the only non smoking beer gardens in Wellington.

Trundling our way to another recommended craft beer bar – Little Beer Quarter – it seemed to have a better range of beer, especially that of the Belgian variety with Ben choosing a Birthday blue Chimay. A little bit off the Main Street, not quite as much atmosphere as Goldings, it was perhaps just the time of day we were there. Happy to revisit :-). There’s quite a big craft beer scene in Wellington. You can read more about it here. We’ll see how many we get through!

Heading north out of Wellington, chosen by Ben, the Southward Car Museum was a Saturday exploring choice. Many cars and bikes, my favourites were the Ed Roth creations, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen’s car and the Dodge brothers’ copper car. Very cool. Learning the troubled history of the DeLorean, a short video told me that they were going to use a fridge as the time travel device in the Back to the Future Movies – an item that was apparently very easy for kids to crawl into and lock themselves inside, so it was decided that a car would be a more appropriate and safer choice. Enter the DeLorean. Wasn’t enough to save it though. Finding the ‘Black Beast’, the largest motorcycle licensed for use on New Zealand roads, I also learnt the story of Thomas Edward Lawrence. Known as Lawrence of Arabia, and immortalised in the 1962 movie of the same name, he had a motorbike accident in 1935 and died. His neurosurgeon, Hugh Cairns, began research which ultimately led to the use of crash helmets and saved the lives of many motorcyclists as a result of treating him. Ben particularly taken with a 1913 24 litre Mercedes Benz, it was built by Count Zborowski whose cars became known due to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and claims to possibly be the only car ever built with water cooled brakes. Quite pricey at $18 admission but definitely worth a look. It was cool to learn of these stories :-).

To the South, we’ve made it to the Southernmost point of North Island – Cape Palliser. A lighthouse overlooking this southernmost point, there are 251 steps leading to it. The best part of Cape Palliser? The seals that were having a rest near the side of the road! Amazing! Very cute and snappable up close, I managed to capture quite a few pictures :-).

Doing a step challenge at work, it has inspired some lovely walks – getting a different perspective of the city from Mt Kaukau (a steep walk up, the steps don’t do your effort justice!).

Round the pebbles of Makara beach, finding a very bright reassuring rainbow, to Pukerua Bay where the road winds out of Wellington along the coast and also to Castlepoint on the east coast with crashing waves and another lighthouse. Very nice locations to achieve steps :-).

Managing even further afield, top of the bucket list, on Easter weekend we took a trip north to Matamata, not far from Rotorua, where Hobbiton is. I had had a woman warn me the traffic out of Wellington would be bad but nothing prepared me for what eventuated! One slow, narrow route out along the beautiful coast, it took us 2 hours just to get out the city…! Took us 7 in total to reach Matamata, stopping off in Taupo for some food. The furthest we’ve been in New Zealand so far, it was great to road trip and see New Zealand’s roads and surrounding countryside. And play 500 miles, in the middle of nowhere, loudly of course :-).

Also doing my best to appreciate the culture and environment we’re living in, I went with work colleagues to see ‘Meat‘ at the movies, a glimpse into NZ farming and a very interesting view of haggis! If you’re interested the trailer is here. Also got a glimpse into chicken showing with the movie Pecking Order, following the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in the lead up to the National Show. Trailer here. Both worth a look, it’s good to broaden our film horizons.

Until next time… x

A Newcomer’s Observations

It’s been nearly eight weeks since we arrived in Wellington. Wellington a very multicultural city, and a fun fact if you didn’t know already, it is the world’s windiest city! I don’t doubt it – it can be very fierce! Everywhere we go, the people that we meet tell us this has been the worst summer on record in Wellington. There are certainly some days that remind of a bad winter’s day in Scotland! It encourages best use of the lovely warm sunshine when it arrives! We’re glad we have more than a few weeks of a holiday to explore.

Starting to settle into NZ life, getting used to a new way, we’ve been spending time cat sitting to save money when we’re able to, Air BnB when we can’t. We’ve had the company of Basil, Toby, Jasper and George! We reckon we’ve saved over $1000 in accomodation. Quite pricey, looking at $3-400 for a week’s stay for two people in an Air BnB or hostel, this definitely offers a better alternative and also allows us to explore different suburbs and transport routes. My favourites so far being the suburbs of Petone and Mt Victoria, the train ride into Wellington from Lower Hutt might just have knocked my Harbour Bridge commute off the top spot…! It is an extremely pretty view (on a good day when it’s sunny!) curving its way round the harbour to roll into Wellington Central! ๐Ÿ™‚


*apologies for the poor reflection!

A few little observations from a humble newcomer to the city… Messing with my head, here the $1 coins are smaller than $2 coins. This is the opposite to Australia and totally throws me off. Makes logical sense though! Getting better, I still need to check before I hand them over! Loving the $5 penguin adorned notes though!

In Australia, there were Woolworths and Coles supermarkets. Here, the Woolworths logo sits afront a supermarket called Countdown. New World is the other ‘big one’ with Pak n Save offering the ‘low cost’ alternative. (I still find it quite expensive!) Very Costco like, they add tax at the checkout… Confusing. In contrast to Australia though, the supermarkets here sell alcohol in them. In Australia a bottle shop needed to be sourced. Limited to beer, wine and cider in the supermarket here, spirits still require a specialist shop. The UK is spoilt for cheap choice! It is also extremely weird having plastic bags on offer so freely! I had got so used to not having them. Scotland has done well getting rid of them and encouraging reusable bag use. A new New Zealand word, trolleys here are called trundles! But not at every shop just to keep you on your toes!


In food related news:

  • Sweet potatoes are known by their Mฤori name, ‘kumara’ here. Find out more about the history here.
  • Peppers are, like in Australia, known as capsicums. No zucchinis, here they are courgettes. 
  • There are new vegetables on the supermarket shelf. A starchy root crop, we’ve seen Taro in the supermarket. Not tried it yet though.
  • It is most deliciously nice to be reacquainted with timtams and mint slices. 
  • Irn Bru can be found here! Something always more exciting when you’re not in Scotland. 
  • Here there is a contender for Subway’s crown – Pita Pit. The same but with pita breads. Very tasty! I recommend.

Something that is hard for me to get my head round is the amount of British TV on TV here! There’s even an entire channel dedicated to it…! Take Me Out (albeit a few years old), Graham Norton, Corrie, Emmerdale, Distraction and Taskmaster amongst many, it is hard to avoid it on regular scheduled TV…! I am becoming quite fond of Kirsty and Phil’s ‘Love it or List it’ which I never even watched in the UK!

    Exploring our way round, managing quite a few things here including the Weta Cave – the studio that made Lord of the Rings effects, doing a tour of the NZ parliament, the National War Memorial, Te Papa museum, the Writer’s walk, the cable car ride, catching the view from Mt Victoria, plane spotting from Lyall Bay, Korokoro Dam, Zealandia eco sanctuary, drinking beer at the Garage Project, sunset watching in Porirua and enjoying a nice drive round the Wellington coast today, here are a few pics from the last eight weeks.

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    Packing Up…

    Packing Up

    It’s been a busy few weeks…!

    As most of you know, we made the decision to move to New Zealand in January. It has been no mean feat to finish up working, pack up an entire flat of contents and pack for a significant extended time in a new country! Suffice to say there has perhaps been a few miscalculated decisions…!

    A lot going on, but now finally a bit of space to allow those blogging fingers to put themselves back into action… (it’s been a wee while, I really haven’t done our adventures in Scotland enough justice!) I thought I would share some Edinburgh packing up tips:

    • It takes you longer than you think to sell all your belongings.
    • We had stuff in the flat listed on Ebay, Gumtree and many Facebook groups. All with their different pros and cons. Always get proof of postage for Ebay in case of a dispute. The benefit of Facebook – you don’t need to pay seller fees.
    • Edinburgh based facebook groups if you are trying to sell (or looking for something) – Get Rid of it Edinburgh; Edinburgh Just Furniture; For Sale or Wanted Edinburgh & Lothians; Edinburgh and Lothians Ultimate Bargains; Free stuff/for sale in Edinburgh; Free items offered and wanted Edinburgh & Lothians; Edinburgh Buy and Sell plus many more. I’m sure many regional variations!
    • These groups need to be treated with caution and persistence. We had some lovely people that came and picked stuff up no problem but there was frequently people who said they would come and collect and never showed, people would ask you to deliver, one guy even asked to post all our kitchen stuff to Haddington (?!), you wait because someone says they will collect and tell two other people who are interested you need to let them know (our advice – just say sold to whoever collects first), people frequently change their minds, you provide location and postcode on the item you’re selling then have a whole conversation to be told sorry no too far away (surely evident from the post itself), towards the end of our tenancy coming up I even offered to deliver two things just to get rid of it for the girl not even to reply to me… When you’ve offered to deliver for only ยฃ10 for your items… Persistence eventually paid off and I think we did well. Happy that our belongings have made it into a few different households and the rest went to charity. You will need to be able to find your ‘other messages’ folder on facebook to facilitate conversations though!
    • Bedding, sheets and towels are only accepted by a few charity shops. Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home will take them but if you would like them to be used by people try Barnardo’s on Ferry Road or the Edinburgh Clothing Store.

    A very busy 48 hours prior to our departure, still running around cleaning the flat, still trying to pack, see people and try and get some sleep, we flew out of Edinburgh with a little stopover in Sydney. Chai latte’s – how much i’ve missed you. A week down in New Zealand with some variable weather, sussing out the way of the land, having spent the weekend being tourists, I’ll be sure to keep you updated of what we get ourselves up to :-).

    Melaka: The Last Stop of Our Malaysian Adventure

    Mr Melaka

    Our introduction to Melaka (also known as Malacca) is an early one. Our night bus from Penang arrives about 6am. After a McDonald’s breakfast, surrounded by many travellers heading by bus to Singapore, we jump on a local bus in the direction of our hotel. Chosen by Ben as it was in the ‘centre of everything’ it was apparent that we were walking ‘through everything’ to get to it ๐Ÿ˜€ . Poetic licence on the hotel’s part I feel! Early am, with cooler weather and Ben taking the brunt of the baggage weight we walked to our hotel. No way we would have managed this at any other time of day! Taking some respite at a street food cafe, we had some kind of sweet delight that was truly not delightful! Decidedly rotten egg like! Definitely not one of the nicer things we tried!

    Rotten egg Street food!

    Melaka a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are many museums with many stories. Continue reading

    Street Art, Temples and Street Food on Penang Island

    Dhammikarama Burmese Temple

    Penang was my favourite stop on our journey. An island off the west coast of Malaysia, chosen as I had heard it ‘had the best street food in Asia’, and reachable by ferry from Langkawi, it was a natural next stop on our travels. A fairly pricey ferry at 70 ringgit (ยฃ14), the ferry took just less than 3 hours. Choosing to catch up with a few Panorama’s I’d downloaded, there’s nothing like the ferry grinding to a halt and thick black smoke billowing from the front engine to put Brexit into perspective! Genuinely concerned I was about to have to abandon ship, I was reassured by Ben that ‘a ferry this big would have another engine!’ Sure enough, after a hesitant, extremely protracted delay, we chugged along and moored ourselves at Georgetown jetty.

    I loved Georgetown the minute I got off the boat! Picking up my backpack, smiling, I said to myself ‘I think I’m going to like it here.’ Certainly did. Georgetown the main hub of Penang, and a World Heritage Site, we chose a place to stay that was on Kapitan Keling road. Finding some funkily decorated chairs across the town, I thought they were a really cool idea. Captioned “sit on me, move me, arrange me with others. Do what you like with me, just keep me in the George Town World Heritage site.” The plans in my head for these chairs didn’t quite fruition! Finding a cat cafรฉ, moustache house, many temples, much street art, Georgetown is filled with character and colour. The impact and prevalence of religion and worship apparent, Penang’s State Museum tells stories of its history. Of the impact of British rule from 1786…

    Now there is a lot to see in Penang. I would definitely have changed a Langkawi day for another day here. Ever the organiser, our achieved itenary over 2 and a half days included:

    • Fort Cornwallis
    • Victoria Memorial Clock Tower
    • Khoo Kongsi Temple
    • Masjid Melayu Mosque
    • Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque
    • Syed Alatas Mansion
    • Sri Mariamman Temple
    • Kuan Yin Temple
    • Penang State Museum
    • St George’s church (all the above achievable in a day)
    • Getting intentionally lost to wander through all the town’s street art
    • We spent a morning exploring Dhammikarama Temple and Wat Chayamangkalara
    • Reachable by bus, Kek Lok Si Temple and then Penang Hill
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      I’m really gutted we didn’t have time to see Penang’s beaches or spend time there. Our afternoon up Penang Hill seems like it would have been better spent at the beach.

      Of course with a reputation as the best place to find tasty street food, we did a lot of good eating here! Following the recommendations in the guide book, we ate at Red Garden Food paradise the first night. A massive food market, with big screens, drinks and food brought to your tables, a lot of variety – I had some dumplings and some sushi. Yum. Off to Tai Tong the next night, this colourful restaurant was unbelievably tasty. Some tasty snacks at a street food market, I’m ashamed to say we had a Pizza Hut on our last night. It was very cheap though!

      My advice is just to wander and absorb Georgetown’s charm. A lot of the tourist sites we found easily on our wanders unintentionally. Not necessarily spending too long in each, it is easy to cover a lot of ground. Worth taking the time to find the temples a bit further away though!

      Some of the awesome street art we found:

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      Penang tips:

    • Buses leave from the jetty. No need for an expensive, inflated taxi
    • Taxi’s are supposed to be metred. All our attempts to enforce this in Penang failed. Taxi apps are the best way round this and make the fare more reasonable! Uber, Grab and Mytexi are your best bets.
    • Don’t waste your time or money going up Penang Hill if it’s cloudy. There is literally nothing to see apart from cloud. The view from Kek Lok Si is much better on a cloudy day. It does look like would be pretty good on a clear day though ๐Ÿ˜€
    • One we didn’t realise til we left! The ferry from Penang to Butterworth is free. Butterworth to Penang is also relatively inexpensive. Significantly less than reaching by Langkawi! And also saves you an hour and a half travelling time.
    • Always check and ask the times of transfer buses! We had booked a bus to Mallaca at 10pm. ‘Come back at 9.30’ she said. We returned at 9.36 and were told we had missed the bus. She had never made it clear to us there was an earlier transfer bus, nor even said “bus leaves at 9.30, not 10.” Our ticket said ‘Leaves at 10pm.’ Informed we would have to get a taxi to the other station, she said she would helpfully ask the bus to wait… We reach Sungai Nibong from Komtar and get there before the bus even arrived… On asking, I was informed that the bus definitely left the other terminal at 10pm. We’re still genuinely confused… We actually had enough time to walk to the ferry and pick the bus up in Butterworth as well…
    • There is a free CAT bus that leaves from the jetty and circles the city, stopping at lots of tourist sites.
    • There are street art walking maps which detail and explain some of the stories.
    • We stayed:Red Inn Court
      Lovely and cosy, comfy, great location. Ask for a room with a/c. Breakfast is basic but many cheap options nearby. Where Ben learnt how tasty pao was ๐Ÿ˜.

    A Week in Langkawi

    From KL Sentral we head north. Past rivers and trees, from built up residential areas, to huts and grand houses; the landscape changes. The contrast between rich and poor evident. The occasional temple, colourfully adorned, comes into view. Becoming mountainous, new builds to old, we arrive into the open expanse of water and boats near Butterworth. Reaching Kuala Perlis and buying our ferry tickets, we relax with some tasty nasi goreng.

    After a hot ferry, our arrival into Kuah is met with a raft of many taxi drivers. Apparently non negotiable the fares are already set. Costing us 30 ringgit (ยฃ6) to get to Pantai Cenai, it actually was a fair flung distance. Our planned chill and down time, relaxing on the beach was the main aim. Pantai Cenai a bit rough in the water, we found some calmer beaches north west further round the road.

    Langkawi

    We choose to spend one of our day’s snorkelling at Pulau Payar. An ‘organised’ tour with at least 8 buses worth of people, I think this puts the amount of people that were on the beach in Ko Phi Phi in Thailand where the Beach movie was filmed to shame. Obviously trying to maximise profits, the amount of people in the water was ridiculous! Most seemingly staying close to shore with life jackets, escaping along the coastline by ourselves I managed to see a foot long shark! Nice to be in the water, unfortunately left with some sore sunburn (the hazards of a cloudy day and forgetting to do the back of my legs – I know, my bad) we were left exhausted at having to contend with so many people…

    One of my favourite days in Langkawi though was motorbiking around most of the island. Stopping by Eagle Point in Kuah, taking our time at Wat Koh Wanararm (Lucky Temple) (it was awesome), finding Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Temple by the side of the road, enjoying tasty, cheap Indian food in the restaurant opposite it, driving through Kilim Nature Park, then an impromptu climb of Gunung Raya – the highest point in Langkawi (they even give you tea!), at only 10 ringgit and no other tourists it was a peaceful haven of stillness with a crackingly awesome view :-).

    Eagle Point

    Also using the motorbike to get to the well reviewed Langkawi cable car (no buses on the island), the ride to the top was very cool, if a bit tourist centric (many necessary pictures to pass barriers as well as an extra charge to reach the skydeck – be warned the ‘nature walk’ to get there involved many steps in the sweltering heat! Recommend paying the extra not to walk if it’s hot!) With a disappointing, cloud obscured view from the skydeck it felt a bit overpriced and taken advantage of. Perhaps just luck as to the weather at the top, I’m totally backing Gunung Raya instead! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Langkawi cable car

    Langkawi was certainly the most expensive destination we stayed in Malaysia. Obviously paying for the beach front and the variety of option, they certainly know how to get money out of you! The amount of development on the island, the many, newly built, expensive houses, the effect of tourism on the island is evident. I’m glad we had had a few days in KL first and had found food cheaply around 6-10 ringgit and knew to explore around. Told that alcohol was cheap as there was no tax in Langkawi, they make up for it in retail charges! Cocktails between 20 and 40 ringgitt, when you can eat for 8, it is the equivalent of buying a ยฃ10 burger and a ยฃ50 bottle of wine! Admittedly yes, spend well on holiday, Ben and myself were both of the opinion that if you can do it a little bit cheaper most nights you should. :-).

    Great to be at the beach, the cool breeze very welcome and enjoyable (less mozzies too!), some peaceful nights sat on the beach under the stars, tasty food, admittedly with some negative points (hotel not great and the cost involved), it was some much needed down time in a pretty location.

    Langkawi tips:

    • Don’t bother with the cable car. Drive/motorbike your way to the top of Gungun Raya. We genuinely don’t understand why there weren’t more tourists there.
    • If motorbiking round the island, if you need fuel, you need to go into the fuel station, put some money down, then fill up then collect change. 5 ringgit is plenty, most often we were 2 or 3 to fill the tank.
    • We tried murtabak, claypot chicken and nasi lemak. Yum!
    • Eat where it is busy and where there are locals. Generally much cheaper and tastier

    Cheap and tasty food stalls

    We stayed:

    Royal Agate Beach Resort. I wouldn’t recommend. Wifi was awful. Either somewhere cheaper which you expect to be cheap or splash out for somewhere nice.