Summary of the trip: Pacific Islands and Australia

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. The next logical third is the Pacific Islands including Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand and Japan (technically its an island chain at least mostly in the Pacific.) as well as Syndey Australia. I know I haven’t posted my final Tokyo post yet, that is still to come after this one.

Best site

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand, Milford Sound was an absolutely stunning place to visit and it was well worth doing the excellent overnight cruise on the Fjord.

Best museum

A Bomb Museum, Hiroshima, Japan, though flawed as I covered in the Hiroshima post the A bomb museum was very good and covered the important facts about the first use of the nuclear bomb. All of the signs were also in English and the audio tour covered most of it and was available in 20 or so languages.

Best tour company

Oz Trails, Sydney for managing to organise and excellent and full one day tour of the Blue Mountains in Australia for a reasonable price as well.

Best city

Tokyo, Japan for its excellent public transport, great sites and it appears to have strong nightlife as well (though I didn’t experience it myself.). It is also a modern and vibrant city.

Best non-Family accommodation

Te’ora, Easter Island, this award has been practically guaranteed since Easter Island, but Te’ora was amazing and I would definitely go back for the accommodation, unfortunately Easter Island is really the sort of place you only go once, I recommend it to all levels of traveller, whether you stay in youth hostels (well it is a little expensive) or the Peninsula.

Best food for under US$25

Creviche in the blue restaurant on Easter Island, assuming you stay at the recommended accommodation this should be enough to go on, creviche on Easter Island was absolutely delicious.

Honourable Mention

Okomomiyaki, Hiroshima, although I didn’t speak English at the restaurant this was absolutely amazing, and was better than the Tokyo version which I had today (and haven’t discussed yet).

The Lee, Mohan and Tim award for the best burger

Burgers seem to be turning into a staple on this trip and in honour of my time in Chicago when I had four burgers in six days with the guys from Chicago (including two for two successive meals.

Burger Hut at Le Petit Village, Mooera for being absolutely delicious and a bargain for Tahiti.

Honourable Mention for South America

As the award started in Chicago, the USA is exempt so it goes to the BK Argento, Argentina.

Best nightlife

Queenstown, New Zealand, because I actually went out there, and unlike Sydney it had character and wasn’t full of non-descript hotel bars.

Best Activity

Shotover Jet, Queenstown for being great fun (especially the 360 degree spins), not too expensive for New Zealand and for finishing just when you wanted it to.

Honourable mention for the Americas

Mountain biking in Arequipa, Peru which was great fun on bumpy roads, and I even managed not to fall off!.

Friendliest People

The Japanese the Japanese, especially those I have stayed with have all been very friendly, even when there is a language barrier between us.

Best Transportation Company

Japan Rail, Japan, any train company which can make you forget to photograph something as cool as the Shinkansen because it “just works” so well is incredible, every train has been virtually on time in the entire country and the transportation system here in Japan is nothing short of incredible. Japanese trains are how it should work everywhere.

Best bargain

The free temples in Japan for often being as good as some of those you have to pay to enter.

Biggest rip-off

Tahiti for being totally overpriced for what it was. It was even a total rip-off in comparison to the utterly remote Easter Island, and Japan whose currency has gained 70% over the pound this year. This is really reflected in it only having 2.5 times the tourist numbers of Easter Island which is much harder to get to.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

The winner is Dan in Real Life for being the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that didn’t disappoint its genre by being a) funny and b) about real love.

Honourable Mention

The counterfeiters which was very interesting, but a little short for my liking.

Journey to Tokyo

I took the train up from Wellington to Auckland on Saturday which was pretty good and the train left early on Saturday morning for it’s journey first along the coast and then through the mountains. Unfortunately the windows are far too shiny to really get a good photo and there is too much pollen on the viewing platform for me. We did stop at lunchtime which gave me a chance for a quick walk as I’d already had some sandwiches on the train.

We arrived into Auckland in the evening (though 1.5 hours late which I wasn’t at all happy about – the reason was that the track was too hot.) and once there I went to sleep before my early 7.30am flight to Brisbane. For this flight I got up at 4.25am which is ungodly and then as the airport bus was early (4:40 not 4:44 as it was supposed to be.) I had to run up a 1:4 hill to catch it before collapsing on the floor of the bus (you try it with a 18kg rucksack – I’m not in the army.). I did manage to get a shower at the airport in Auckland. The flight was uneventful except that I had to run for my plane at Brisbane and JALWAYS gave us lots of food and drink though the films were all absolutely terrible. The best one was about a playboy bunny and solority houses and I’m not even kidding. It was also followed by the worlds longest taxi into the airport.

After that I made my way through the friendly and efficient security checks (the other airport staff and people around the airport were friendly too – male and female :p) to get my Japan Rail Pass and train ticket to Shinjuku station. I should also mention how insanely reliable the Japanese trains are. The 18:10 rapid train that I didn’t catch shut it’s doors at 18:09:5x but was still standing in the station when my iPod touch went over to 18:10:00. The track is also insanely smooth as it’s dark outside it doesn’t feel like the train is actually moving at all, ok it had stopped but I hadn’t noticed.

Further on on the journey we passed houses with garish Christmas lights though in general Tokyo is a lot darker with far fewer lights visible than in a Western city. The centre is still very bright though.

The other thing I’m immediately interested in discovering aside from the general culture is the technology. Japan has a reputation of being the most technologically advanced country on the planet, yet most of the most successful companies for 100 years have been American; from IBM to Microsoft to Apple and Google today.

Sydney

WordPress for iPhone sets the date by default to the date the post was started not when it was published so this post has languished a little further down the page than it should.

So on my first day in Sydney I first headed to the main shopping street in town and the Sydney Apple Store which is massive. Unfortunately they wouldn’t update my iPod Touch to the latest software version as I wanted. Maybe at this stage I’ll have to put up with it crashing sometimes until I get back to the UK.

Then I left the technological world behind, had some lunch and headed to the free and excellent museum of contemporary art. It included a large exhibition by Yinka Shonibare on British culture especially the aristocracy. He dressed them up in traditional African dress too which was cool. He also refers to himself with his title as an MBE to subvert the British culture from within. Personally I think that is part f British culture to allow critism like this – and that is undoubtably why he got his MBE. Anyhow then I went across the harbour bridge before heading back to the hostel through the botanical gardens for an early night as I was pretty tired.

Then on Friday in the morning I went shopping. It is nice to be somewhere which has an American style mall now. Then in the afternoon I headed to national martime museum which included an Australian gunship and the replica of Cook’s Endeavor. This was actually pretty interesting and I went on a guided tour of the warship and it took about 3 hours overall for all the boats not leaving much time for the museum before it shut. Cook’s endevour was also good, inside it was very small and even I had to duck. In the evening I went out for a few drinks with people from my hostel and I returned quite late in the small hours of the morning.

On Saturday I finally headed to the Sydney Opera house and went on a tour of the building. On the outside the building is very attractive but unfortunately inside the building is mostly ugly concrete which is a little disappointing. To it’s credit it is the bat looking We did learn how the building was built and how it took $100 million dollars and 16 years to build. Of course thanks to inflation it will now cost $700 million to refurbish part of the inside. In the evening I met up with a friend who I’d met in Chile and we got to watch England lose to New Zealand at Rugby League something I’m sure everyone in the UK is absolutely gutted to hear that.

Then on Sunday I got up early in the morning to head inland to the Blue Mountains. I went with Oz Trails and they were very good. I also was joined by a majority of Americans for the trip which wasn’t something I’ve experienced before. Maybe the new president is already making a difference even though he’s not in office yet! On the trip we went to Kutumbre to see the three sisters and the train down into the valley which was really cool. It used to be used for coal but since the 1920’s it has been used by passengers at first riding only in the coal cars which must have been safe! Fortunately these days you ride in a car which is protected by a cage to keep you safe. It is very funny though as the sign for the ride telling you not to drop camera bags and infants in case they get damaged which is a good example of Aussie humour.

After that we had lunch and I had an Australian pie and we bought some sweets from an expensive sweet shop. After that we headed into the national park down below the mountains to see kangeroos and I got a video of one bounding across the grass. Finally we went to Sydneys Olympic Park and then caught a boat back to the Opera house which gave an overview of the rich part of the city.

Sydney: First Impressions

So I’ve got off the plane and landed in Sydney. It seems like a friendly and nice city so far. I’ve just uploaded a post on Tahiti itself and Moorea will follow shortly. I need to do a bit more to it first.

Overall I wasn’t too impressed with French Polynesia. It was really too expensive for what it was.