"New Zealand Travel Diary #1" New Zealand Travelogue by ahcoln
New Zealand Travel Guide: 14,599 reviews and 37,385 photos
Departing from Singapore (Day 0)
There were 4 of us departing from Singapore Changi Airport at 8pm on 3rd Jun 2005. We booked Air New Zealand because there was a promotion going on with an option for a free city stopover either Auckland or Christchurch. The price inclusive of tax was S$955 per pax. We chose to start our journey from the North Island so we took the Auckland stopover. It was so boring in such a long hour flight, hmmm, in such a small and packed aircraft I would say, seats were uncomfortable, not even with inflight entertainment system except few tv showing some movie. I can’t sleep for the whole night (possibly too excited but we have to blame some other thing to make us balance). The lapsed of 11 hours stiffed in the aircraft we finally reached our long-waited destination, Auckland, New Zealand.
Arriving at Auckland (Day 1)
Auckland is the biggest city of New Zealand, 4 hours different to Singapore, not too bad I guess. Despite the uninvited airport (some renovation was in the progress, so I believe it will be better in the near future), we were acting a bit over energized. The immigration counter was in a long queue, as expected, but the progress was pretty smooth. Perhaps it was morning so the officer was still fresh and hence, friendly. They asked a few questions, glanced at our return ticket, and let go. Regarding the customs, we had done enough study and well conscious on the things that are prohibited so we passed through the green lane without any problem. For more New Zealand customs info please visits New Zealand Customs Information Website.
Right after the exit, there were few airport transfer operator queuing for customer. I believe taxi is the fastest mode but also most expensive. We approached a mini bus (super shutter) driver and asked for the price. It was NZ$22 for the first person and subsequently NZ$5 for the rest of people traveling together. Four persons will be NZ$9.25 per person. There is another airport transportation AirBus, but we couldn’t locate it. It should be slightly cheaper if you are alone, about NZ$15 per person. We went by the mini bus not only it was cheaper for group travelling, it will also drop us exactly on the hotel doorway that we stay. This mini bus was towing a big trolley behind where our luggage placed. Along the ride, we saw some other car also towing kind of trolley but vary in size. I think this was unique to NZ as I did not see it in Asia or OZ.
Columbia Apartment & Parking Fine
We arrived at Auckland City for about half an hour ride. The weather of the city was around 15ºC but it can be abruptly dropped with a little rain and breeze. We had pre-booked Columbia Apartment through internet with the special price of NZ$129, 2 bedrooms (queen size bed on each room) with a small kitchen and living room. It wasn’t so bad until we realized the location of the place was really painful. A walk to the downtown will require more than 20 minutes and the leading street was very steeply. Furthermore, there was no parking lot available, the staff merely gave us a small piece of paper to display on the windshield (please do not tow away the car, contact xxxxxxxx), but we still being fined of illegal parking (time printed on the fine chit was 1am in the morning, weren’t they diligent). Anyway, forget about the location and parking fine, the apartment was clean and exhaustive, affordable and comfortable.
Exploring Auckland City
We began our walking adventure immediately after check-in. The city looked compact and accessible to us thru the map. Only less than 2 hours lurking around the Aotea Centre, Queenstreet and the harbor, we finally decided to get a car instead of walking lol. It wasn’t as easy as we thought. Fortunately we grabbed some car rental flyers at the airport and most of the car rentals were located within the same area. We rented a 1.5 litre saloon car at $39 + $8 per day for full coverage of insurance from Apex. This must be the smartest decision we made throughout the whole NZ trip. So, where was the first place we went by self-driving? Nothing is better than visiting the local museum on the first trip in order to get know about the country; understand country history, people, culture, wildlife, and everything; and all these were exhibited in the 3 storey building of Auckland Museum. I was quite impressed especially on the 3rd floor where they managed to restore the old Queenstreet with all kind of shop houses and old stuff.
First Night in New Zealand & Auckland Sky Tower
In the winter, the night falls early in the evening, and in Auckland, sun sets around 5.30pm. Our initiate plan was to go shopping during the night, but it can't be done with a half-dead city. Apart from restaurants and some souvenir shops that owned by Japanese, Korean or Chinese, the rest of shopping arcades were closed. There is a fun fact about Auckland told by a local friend, Mr. Nigel, who moved from Rotorua to Auckland 2 years ago. He told us his Asian wife when first come into New Zealand, thought she was coming to the wrong country as she saw more Asian than local people. Another fun fact from my own observation was about their pedestrian crossing. I wasn’t quite sure what traffic rules NZ adapted from, but I believe it is quite an effective idea. On the junction, the traffic light on all streets will turn into red for about 30 seconds and all pedestrians can cross to any direction. This guarantees their safety because all cars from all direction stop at that time. Although the city was quiet, the Skytower was alive for the whole night. There is a casino there, but we did not have time for that. We spent about an hour chatting with my friends and touring around the tower.
Morning walk at One Tree Hill / Cornwall Park (Day 2)
On the next morning we woke up early and had a simple bite (Asian Style, instant noodles + half-boiled egg). The moment we saw the parking fine it did spoil a little bit on our mood but we forgot it pretty soon. We wanted to go Hamilton and Rotorua today but before that we made a short visit to One Tree Hill. The tree was no more there but replaced by a monument. We saw many tourists as well as local hanging around. Apparently those with sport wear were local and others with multi-layer clothes were tourist lol. We met a few tourists from Hong Kong and told us how bad the weather of Auckland on the last few days, and they were trapped inside the hotel. Cars are allowed to drive to the peak for a beautiful Auckland City view but we preferred to have a little walk as it was quite breezing. Not bad for an hour we spent in here.
Journey to Hamilton and Rotorua
This was quite a silly thing we done on our journey from Auckland to Rotorua; stopping the car for photo shooting, and we keep doing the same thing on other driving trips except if we were driving at night. I think you probably will do the same like us, you know, there were too many scenic roads full of scenic views in NZ, and if you carry on doing this you will never get to your destination (Warning!!!). We departed from Auckland at 10am but arrived at Hamilton after 1pm (only 127km). I suggest you stop only when you see the “Scenic Lookout” road sign and believe me, it will save you lot of traveling time. The inexperienced long hour ride made us missed the Rotorua Sunday Street Market that available only once for every two weeks (we caught it for the last 30 minutes and found many cheap stuff). We fed ourselves at Hamilton as well as the wild ducks in the Hamilton Domain. Nothing special but just to highlight to those who like chili sauce with the fast food, we can’t find any in the Kentucky. So later in Rotorua, we bought one from the convenient shop and this dreadful (but we love it) chili sauce followed us to wherever we go in NZ.
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