We arrived at Narita airport exhausted from lack of sleep in our dorm the night before, but quickly caught a second wind and got super excited for our four nights in Tokyo! We caught the train into the city and exited at Shibuya Station. Shibuya was a highly recommended part of the city to stay in and it also is one of the largest metro stations we’ve ever seen. Shibuya is also home to Shibuya Crossing, which is said to be the busiest intersection in the world! It was so crazy to see everyone walking in every single direction when the traffic lights ALL went red, and the walking lights lit up!
While Jenny continued traveling through Vietnam and into Cambodia, I opted to backtrack a little and revisit Perth. Our 2 months in SE Asia left me exhausted and homesick and I was ready for a return to routine and “normal” life as I used to know it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get from Nha Trang, Vietnam to Perth, Australia, so I spent about 24 hours traveling back to the land of Oz. Most of this time was spent on long layovers in Saigon and Kuala Lumpur.
The remainder of our visit in Sydney (outside of our many beach journeys) was spent seeing some of the major sites of the city.
On Tuesday, we walked outside to a rain shower. We decided to hit up the Sydney SeaLife Aquarium – first, because it’s cool…and second, it would provide shelter from the rain. We took the train and made our way through Darling Harbour to the aquarium. It’s a super cute area, but unfortunately it was still pouring so we got our tickets and entered immediately. We saw some adorable penguins, jellyfish, tons of fish, sharks, sting rays, seahorses, dugongs (sea cows) and many more! Here are some pics we snapped throughout the aquarium.
After we left the Aquarium, the rain had not let up, so we decided to park it at a place for lunch and have some beers (shocking, we know). We settled on King Street Brewhouse on the wharf of Darling Harbour and hung out there a couple of hours. Once the rain cleared, we headed back to our hostel to get ready for our “Galentine’s date” (see what we did there?! ha). We had known that it was Valentine’s day and wanted to do something fun to celebrate….so therefore we booked a show at the famous Sydney Opera House. Yes, we are super classy. Oh, but wait, not to mislead you…we saw no Opera. We instead opted to get tickets to see a cirque-type show called Barbu. We were warned online that it was slightly racy and to be prepared for brief male nudity. Ha, we were sold.
We decided to get to the Sydney Harbour where there Opera House is located a bit early to snap some pics of us “dressed up” (hair down and blue jeans on). Sydney Harbour also is home to the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, so we couldn’t resist getting some pics with it in the background. We then went to the Opera Bar and sat outside and each had a few glasses of Rosé.
The show was fantastic! We were in the 3rd row right in front of the runway-type stage and the performers were incredible. It was not the giant production like a Vegas Cirque show, but in that way, it seemed even more dangerous. The show was full of daring acrobatic moves and, as promised, a bit of nudity. At one point, one of the male performers approached Kerry and danced on her a bit, leaving some sweat behind and 2 hysterically laughing, slightly intoxicated girls.
We ended the evening at a speakeasy type of bar called the Swinging Cat. We shared a charcuterie platter and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (because we clearly needed more alcohol). It was a great evening and we felt super lucky to get to see a show in such a famous place as the Sydney Opera House!
The next morning, we woke up (wearily) bright and early to catch our shuttle bus for our tour of the Blue Mountains. We only had to walk half a block to the meeting point, where we met our tour guide, Adam, owner of the small local tour company called Barefoot Downunder. The tour promised to be a smaller group, under 2o people, and take us on a really cool hike, as well as to typical tourist locations for pictures. The hour and a half (or so) drive out of Sydney was slightly rough (no fault of the tour company whatsoever) since we were rather hungover and thought at the time that we’d rather be on a beach being lazy. But here we were, being promised a 3 hour hike that no other tour company from Sydney takes people on…lucky us?!
He first took us to see some kangaroos, which were really cute, but we opted to not exit the shuttle bus because the only one near us was a male and honestly…he kinda looked scary! Then we got to the entrance of the National Pass Hike in the Blue Mountains. We unloaded and set off on the hike, walking alongside Adam and getting to know more about him and his company that he and his wife started. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the hike, learning about tons of species of trees and plants surrounding us (Adam majored in horticulture at university), and saw about 10 awesome waterfalls along the way. We also sweated out tons of booze walking up about 1,000 stairs (not exaggerating).
Then we drove into Leura, a quaint town in the mountains. Here, people had the option of buying lunch in one of the many cafes, but we had packed a lunch, so we enjoyed it on some grass in the shade. We were ravenously hungry, and our lunch of salami, cheese, crackers, fruit, hummus and carrots hit the spot!
Adam took us next to see the famous “Three Sisters” rocks, and we also learned to play the didgeridoo. When we had first heard this word, we thought it was going to be some game, but it wasn’t a game. It was a long wooden tube-like wind instrument that you blow into and for us non-professionals, some oddly terrible sounds came out. Adam played one and it sounded really cool though.
We went to several different lookout points, including Pulpit Rock Lookout. The views of the mountains and canyons were stunning! We snapped some cute pics near cliff edges.
The trip ended back in Sydney, where we all had a drink (included in the tour!) together and mingled with Adam and the other day trippers. The bar was called Side Bar, which coincidentally was located within our hostel! We were wiped by the end of the day, but oh so glad that we had selected this particular tour of the Blue Mountains. In the end, we didn’t need another beach day…since FIJI was up next on our agenda!
~Jenny & Kerry
Well, it’s been a bit over a week since we left New Zealand. That means it’s time to share all the things we ate (and drank) during our visit. New Zealand is one of the most expensive countries we planned to visit on this trip, so we cooked the majority of our meals in the kitchen at our hostel. However, we did venture out a few times and found some local gems.
At Our Hostels
Jenny perfected her fried eggs (with Lantana of Texas seasoning…yup she brought that along) which we had for breakfast pretty regularly. She was a pro at this before our trip, but when you’re working with hostel-provided cookware, it’s a bit more tricky. Breakfast typically included avocado toast (we could eat this forever!). Many of our lunches were PBJ’s (ideal for hiking) and fruit. For dinner we tried a variety of things… stir fry, pasta with veggies and chicken and sometimes deli sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches. We also consumed a ton of cheese.
Britomart Country Club (BCC)
When Anna and Adam took us out in Auckland, we stopped by this place after our trip to Devonport. We mostly focused on the beers, but also got some tasty pizzas, fries and chorizo snacks. The location was great, the food was tasty and the company was even better!
Cable Bay Vineyards
We spent a day exploring various wineries on Waiheke Island (which you may have read about here). At the end of the tours, we stopped at Cable Bay to take in the amazing views, share a bottle of wine and devour a late lunch. We opted for one of our favorite things – a mezze platter with a variety of snacking foods. It was tasty and beautiful!
Off the Track
In Napier we went to Off the Track with Mandy, Ben and Maddie. It was Mandy’s birthday when we arrived and this was a great way to celebrate! We took the opportunity to try a variety of tapas and platters since we had several people to share with. We got mussels, scallops, shrimp, lamb, filet, a variety of other meats, cheeses, olives, bread, veggies… the list is never-ending! Since Hawke’s Bay is a well-known wine region, we also made sure to sample a few local wines while we were there.
We extended Mandy’s birthday celebration with a visit to some wineries near Napier. At one stop we ordered a lunch for the three of us that consisted of… guess what… a sampler platter! Jenny gave the mussels a taste test to make sure they were safe, then we all dug in and enjoyed as we drank wine and caught up.
After we finished the Ben Lomond hike in Queenstown we hit up Fergburger. This place is well-known in Queenstown, famous for it’s burgers and long queue. We timed it just right and didn’t have to wait too long to get two burgers the size of our heads and some fries. And it didn’t take us long to inhale the entire burger after hiking for over 6 hours!
This was epic. We heard from a fellow traveler that pizza was amazing at this restaurant in Queenstown, then online reviews confirmed the same thing. After our lazy day of sitting in our bunks doing nothing, we decided to go here and have some pizza. Some pizza. Ha! It was happy hour when we arrived, so we ordered a few beers and their Parmesan curly fries that were on special. They were huge… we should have realized then what we were getting ourselves in to. We continued with a few more beers. Then ordered our pizza. We decided on a 20 inch (12 inch would NOT be enough) split between with 2 of their specialty pizzas. Here’s the description on the 2 we chose:
Cheesy Badgers Cheesy Cheese 5 Cheese Pizza: Cheddar, NZ Mozzarella, Feta, Ricotta, with crusted Parmesan
The Smokey Badger: Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Roast Ham, Chicken, Spicy Beef, Thick Cut Bacon, a Smokey BBQ Swirl, All Topped Off With NZ Mozzarella.
Needless to say the pizza was giant and amazing. We ate a ton, then packaged up the rest for leftovers the next day. They were pretty darn delicious left over for breakfast and lunch.
As far as the beer and wines we tried… the list is long. New Zealand is well known for a lot of its wines, so we stayed pretty busy sampling those. Here are some of our favorite drinks, bars and vineyards we visited.
In Paihia, this was the first bar we tried in New Zealand. It had a great patio, was close to the beach, happy hour beers, free wifi and was directly next to our hostel.
All of Waiheke Island
We visited a few different wineries and loved each of them for their own reasons. More on this great visit is in this blog post.
Speight’s Summit Lager
This beer was suggested to us while we were staying in Rotorua. It quickly became a favorite and our regular go-to beer when we hit the stores in each town. Jenny was a champ and carried it back to our hostel, the Funky Green Voyager, after our long day’s visit to Wai-O-Tapu.
Near Napier, the grounds of this vineyard are stunning. We tried a ton of wines and settled on a few to take home with us to drink on Mandy and Ben’s patio as we overlooked Napier.
This wins on the atmosphere card for sure. Located in Queenstown, this bar is actually a boat floating on the lake, overlooking the mountains. The views are amazing, the beer is cold and they provided blankets during a chilly, windy rooftop visit.
~ Kerry & Jenny