Monday, July 30, 2018

Solo Backpacking across New Zealand, Dec 2015

This blogpost is written to share my travel experience to New Zealand and is by no means a comprehensive travel guide to the country. If you're looking for a travel guide, I would highly recommend checking out Lonely Planet. Views expressed are my own and do not represent views that of any other entity.

In December 2015, I embarked upon my first solo backpacking trip to New Zealand. Having done little planning in advance, I was feeling a little anxious, but excited for the prospect of exploring a new land that I had come to know so much about.

I had a few ideas on what to do, where to stay, food, transportation etc, however, my itinerary was fairly open - ended. I guess, I wanted to stay flexible and spontaneous and was making reservations on the fly.

My first stop was Paihia in the North Island. Having arrived in Auckland, I took the Intercity bus to Paihia, which is a great place to explore the bay of Islands. I checked into a hostel and was sharing the room with three other travelers from Germany. The highlight of my stay was the bay of Islands sailing cruise. We sailed into the bay through several Islands and anchored our Yacht near an Island to explore the cove. On the Island - the sailor made us some of the freshest sandwiches for lunch. Sailor's story is worth mentioning. Sailors family is of chilean descent from Miami, FL. He was born when his parents were sailing across the southern Pacific ocean. He lives a traditional life - hunting his own meat and eating locally grown produce.

I made my way to the South Island and spent a couple nights in a small town of Collingwood in Golden bay. Golden bay's main attraction is the Abel Tasman National Park. An absolutely stunning scenery of Tasman bay enroute to Wharariki Beach. Wharariki Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in New Zealand. It is one of a kind, wild (for the surfers) and rugged. I stayed at Zatori Retreat in Golden bay which is run by a Family run retreat hotel. Tracy and the staff were delightful. As soon as I arrived there, they had prepared dinner for us. I found myself sitting at the Dinner table eating chickpeas curry with rice and raita with a couple other solo travelers from the Netherlands and Germany. We spent the night under the stars, sitting outside on the Patio - getting to know each other.

My next destination was Queenstown, New Zealand. A touristy town filled with cosmopolitan restaurants and cafes. Surrounded by mountains - town offers an long list of things to do. A Short drive away from Queenstown is Glenorchy and Paradise, one of the filming sites for the LOTR.


On Saturday, June 28th, I visited Tokyo in our 1st week in Japan. Growing up, I always had this vague image of Japan, Tokyo more specifically being full of flashing lights, anime, and huge electronic districts. Akihabara, Tokyo was no different. The stereotype was true, to some extent.

Tsukuba Express runs to Akihabara with a top speed of 130km/h. Comparatively speaking, that is pretty fast, CTA runs at a top speed of 88 km/h. The Fully Automated Tsukuba Express is a pleasure to ride. The air turbulence it produces and how quickly another train passes through is fascinating to see.

Akihabara is the one-stop shop for all electronics. From Mom and Pop shops selling all kinds of electronics. Seemingly teen-aged Japanese girls posing as cosplays from Japanese genres of anime or manga. The area is big of anime and gaming aka the ultra nerdy Japanese cult culture.

Personally, finding vegetarian food in Japan hasn't been easy. Indian restaurants are best bets. We happen to find an Indian Restaurant close to Akihabara Station, which had surprisingly good food and not so good service.

It's fascinating how homogenous this country is. People here are unbelievably helpful. Be it a stranger walking all the way with us to the place we're trying to find rather just giving directions or people trying their best English to help you out in every way possible. People here seem to be fascinated by westerners and western culture. The western influence can be seen in Japanese young, middle-aged men wearing English printed tees (most of them were literal translations, with funny and silly messages).  The sheer number of Hamburger chains in Tokyo, although the size of Burger's is only slightly bigger than sliders.

On that note, if you're from the United States,  you'll find food portions here really small and might consider ordering more than one item, which means that food here is actually a bit expensive, given small portions of food.

Weekend in Tokyo. 5-6th July

Areas explored - Asakusa walking tour. The Sensoji temple, Parade, Japanese style wedding, Dance festival

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