2011: a year abroad

Now that 2011 is over we have been looking back on our first year spent without being in Canada. It’s been a crazy and wonderful year full of new and amazing experiences. While they have been troubling and stressful times, I mostly remember our amazing adventures. The stuff we have been posting on the blog is about 2 months behind our actual trip, due to spotty internet access and a little bit of laziness, but this is what we’ve been up too this year!

After the New Year started we visited Kumamoto and Kyoto with my family, went to Kurokawa for Onsen, finally made it to one of Fukuoka’s most famous sites, Dazaifu, I went skiing in Hiroshima, and we enjoyed snow covered Japan, for a weeks weeks at least.
In February I started this blog which has enabled me to remember all of the things I did this year and I’m so happy I did! We celebrated the Chinese new year with a trip to Nagasaki and I enjoyed a quick trip to Shimonoseki for some sushi.

This month we discovered one of our favourite places in Japan, Yakushima. We also spent some time exploring Kagoshima and it’s volcanic island, Sakurajima and celebrated girls festival day in Yanagawa.April:
In April we spent a lot of time exploring Fukuoka and enjoying the various cherry blossom viewing festivals. I rode an electric bike through Kitakyushu, saw the retro town, Mojiko, and had a delicious burger on the island of Nokonoshima.

We spent golden week and a half exploring China in Beijing and Datong, and at the end of the month went camping with our apartment mates in Miyazaki.June:
I took a train trip to the nearby Saga prefecture, biked over 7 bridges from Honshu to Shikoku,  where I went to the all important Anpanman museum and saw an old Canadian friend.

We  celebrated Scott’s birthday in Yufuin, spent some time on the beautiful Iki island, off of Fukuoka’s coast, stayed up all night for Fukuoka’s Yamakasa festival, saw firebreathing dragons at Omuta’s Daijayama festival, and spent a lot of time saying goodbye to the country we now love so much.August:
One last Japanese hurrah in August took us to Tokyo, Hakone and Kamakura.  We experience snow in August for the first time in New Zealand, and spent the rest of the month being gloriously cold in a camper van.

We spent 6 days of September in New Zealand and then we went to Australia. The majority of the month was spent in a campervan down the east coast of Australia.October:
In October we saw Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and the Great Ocean road. Then we were off to Malaysia for two weeks, spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur and 8 days in the Perhentian islands getting SCUBA certified. We made it to Koh Lipe in Thailand just in time for a good Halloween party.

The first half of November we were on Thailand’s beautiful Andaman coast. We spent a week on Koh Lanta, where we both suffered from a little bit food poisoning, I went to a yoga retreat on Koh Yao, and we had one uneventful night at the Bangkok airport before heading to Vietnam. We spent the last two weeks travelling with my parents in Northern and Central Vietnam.December:
We started decmeber off in Vietnam, but moved quickly to Cambodia for ten days, then 5 days spent in Chiang Mai Thailand, a few days in Bangkok, 9 in the Philippines, and  we ended the month and the year visiting friends in Southern Thailand.

It’s been an absolutely amazing year, the kind I’ve always dreamed of having, and I’m so sad to see it go, but I can’t wait for 2012!

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The GREAT barrier reef

When I was teaching Travel and Tourism in Canada, I taught an entire unit on Australia. While the students were complaining, as they do, about the content, I was relishing the opportunity to learn more about a country I had always wanted to visit. All through this trip I have been stopping to marvel at the fact that I am actually in Australia, and no where were these thoughts as strong as at the great barrier reef. Similar to the Great Wall or Mount Fuji, it’s one of the places in the world where you can’t help but have a surreal moment. I can’t believe I’m actually here!
We booked a day trip to the reef on a snorkel and scuba diving boat for just over $100. They picked us up at our hostel in the morning and after getting our safety numbers and our snorkel gear we headed out to the reef. Our boat made two stops, at the Hastings reef in the morning and at Saxon reef in the afternoon.

The boat trip itself was wonderful, with coffee and cookies in the morning, an amazing lunch buffet, and really delicious muffins. Scott and I were two of the only non-divers, so we spent most of our time with a retired couple from Canberra, but we basically had the top of the reef to ourselves.
We purchased an underwater camera case, which served it’s purpose for three uses, and headed into the water. It was amazing!

We saw lots of amazing fish and other incredible underwater life. However, for me, the best part was the reef itself. It was about two feet below the surface and you could easily swim right over the top. It dramatically dropped off 20 feet at the edge, and it was an amazing feeling to swim from the reef to the open water and back again. I felt like I was in Finding Nemo.
The pictures are not great, but it was an amazing experience.

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A snapshot of Cairns

Our first stop in Australia was Cairns, in the North on the East coast. We were so excited to be in Australia, and we spent our first few days lying in hammocks and enjoying the warm weather. Cairns has a gorgeous lagoon next to the ocean, totally jellyfish free. After two days of coffee shops, long walks and a few swims, we headed out on a boat to the great barrier reef .

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New Zealand’s Weird Food: McDonalds Edition

We stopped at a lot of McDonalds on our trip through New Zealand, not necessarily for the familiar food, but for the free and reasonably speedy internet.

Although we didn’t try any of the options available,  it’s always interesting, especially as a former employee, to see the regional variations on McDonalds food. That Kiwi Brekkie Muffin does look delicious though!


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Wonderful Wanaka

Lake Wanaka: we spent a pleasant afternoon here paddle boating and drinking coffee here. Absolutely gorgeous!

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Queenstown: A little underwhelming

There’s no doubt about it, Queenstown is beautiful. Surrounded by stunning mountains and a beautiful lake, it couldn’t be in a prettier location.

However, Scott and I couldn’t really get in to the town. There were a ton of amazing things to do, skydiving, bungy jumping, and jet boating for the adventurous, and skiing, shopping, a kiwi bird sanctuary, and the cable car for the more scardycat of us.It feels ridiculous to complain about something being too expensive when I’m currently living my dream of travelling but, all of these things, including the cable car, cost way more than we were willing to pay, even with a 50% off coupon.

We did however, enjoy a delicious Fergburger, before we quickly moved on to Wanaka.

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