Tag Archives: Travel

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Day 148/365: May 28, 2014

I’m thankful for:

  • Being able to sleep long naps on the plane along with the toddler.
  • A spanking new airport (Hamad International Airport).
  • An empty seat (i.e.: extra space) on the Dream Liner for our last leg.

Oh the view never gets old!

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Days 107-109/365: Apr 19, 2014

The last few days were stretched out. Or shortened. Stretched because it took about 31 hours after we left our home until we arrived at my mom’s house. Shortened because all of that happened during April 18. Time zones and viewpoints can be two very different things. As travel was my primary goal in the recent days, I am now catching up on my thankful posts:

Day 107 – April 17

I’m thankful for:

  • Getting packed.
  • A great reason to travel back to our homeland.
  • Finding a midnight snack of a crispy chicken sandwich with a sesame bun. Delicious.

Loved the soft and slightly bun with the crunchy and spicy chicken. Normally I’m not a big fan of fast food, but this was delicious.

108 – April 18

I’m thankful for:

  • Answers to prayer that the toddler would do well with the long flights.
  • An awesome playground in the airport during our layover.
  • A safe arrival in the US of A.

There’s nothing like having a toddler tire himself out running around excitedly before the next long flight.

Day 109: Apr 19, 2014

I’m thankful for:

  • Socks (something I never use back in the warm SG climate).
  • Meeting my nephew for the first time!
  • The Uncle allowing his daughter and nephew to be his sous chefs.

Both the munchkins kept snitching dough and pizza sauce. The chef took it in stride.

New Zealand, South Island

Note: Hover/click on headings to follow links to read more information and reviews for the various sites and locations we visited.

Our adventures in New Zealand continued once we landed in the South Island.

Day 6: Christchurch – Mt. Sunday

After we got through the airport we sat on the designated curb waiting for the shuttle to pick us up to drive us to the rental car location. The shuttle came and filled up. Unfortunately, due to the lack of queueing system, the shuttle filled up with people (some waiting less time than us) and we weren’t on it. So we had to wait for the shuttle to make a return trip before we finally made it to the rental car location. Due to the popularity of the place, all of the associates working for the rental company were busy, so we ended up being the one family that was left waiting. Once we were finally attended to, we received our car. The first one we’ve had in almost 3 years: a Corolla! woot. Or not. They were supposed to have given us a vehicle that was able to hold more than a Corolla. However, since I was tired of dealing with a toddler who was tired of waiting for things to happen… well I didn’t have the energy to deal with it nor the sense to tell Andrew to complain to the company. Oh well. We got out our GPS and told it to take us to the grocery store. Come to find out, the GPS wasn’t exactly accurate. Instead of doing grocery shopping at the wrong location, we saw a Subway right across the street and made a bee line for the comfort food of a Sub and a Salad. That’s when I realize my mistake… We never picked up our camping gear. We had a car, but no “home.”

I had booked camping gear that would be conveniently dropped off at the rental car location. However, I had inconveniently forgotten to remember to pick the gear up. So we headed back to the place we had just been. This time, we picked up all our gear.

Eager to leave our series of frustrating events behind us, we headed out of Christchurch and to our next location:

Mt. Potts Lodge / Mt. Sunday

Andrew asked me (the planner/coordinator) where we were headed for the night. I had the sense, to say, I had it worked out, and he would see. After a beautiful drive in the country side and a ford across a river (more on that later) – we arrived at our destination.

The closer smaller “hill” is Mt. Sunday.

We stopped the car, and I turned to Andrew and proudly said, “Welcome to Rohan.” [Rohan: the kingdom and lands of the horse people in Lord of the Rings / Middle-Earth.] Andrew turned back to me with the incredulous, “Really!?”

I pointed out the small mountain and explained how that was indeed the location where the famous set had been previously built (and taken down) all for the iconic Lord of the Rings movie. He was impressed because 1) I was able to pull of a surprise. (He makes it hard!) and 2) That it was a location that we were allowed/able to get to!

That night we set up camp. This was in itself an adventure, because we had yet to delve into the camping gear that we had rented. The good news was we had everything we needed and it was self explanatory. The bad news… the tent was huge. I had requested for the next size up from a 2 person tent to make sure there was room to accommodate the little guy. What I didn’t realize was that the next size available was quite large. I’m sure we looked a little funny attempting to raise a 5-pole tent with the hands of two adults, but it went up fine. 🙂

Day 7: Mt. Sunday – Lake Tekapo – Mt. Cook – Twizel

The first night of camping was a success! We were all a little cold, but then we’re used to Singapore weather. Success or not, it seemed like Gideon was just ready to get going.

Uh, bud, that’s not where you sit.

So we packed up our tent (easier to take 5 poles down at once than to put them up simultaneously) and headed down to Mt. Sunday for a hike.

As we got out of the car, Andrew chatted for a few moments with a small group that had just completed the walk alongside Mt. Sunday. They piped that it would be better with waterproof shoes, but still was a good hike. Eager to see the “Mt.” up close, we headed off. It quickly became apparent why waterproof shoes were mentioned. Most of the path/road was flooded. We attempted to find the shallow and skinny part of the “stream” to cross so we could continue on with the hike. Those optimistic crossing points ended with two adults with quite wet shoes and cold feet. Gideon had the advantage of riding on Daddy’s back. Not wanting to hike with cold feet that were prone to blisters from wet shoes, we aborted the hike.

A failed hike. But still a beautiful sight!

We were so disappointed to have come so close but so far. Lesson learned: bring waterproof shoes. Trying to make the most of it, we snapped a few shots before heading out. Gideon was ready for a nap anyways.

Disclaimer: for closer pictures, bring waterproof shoes.

Lake Tekapo & Lake Pukaki

Our disappointment of not getting to go on the desired hike was consoled by beautiful scenery alongside the road. We were particularly struck by the prolific wildflowers!

Pinks and purples galore!

As we were distracted by the wildflowers, we were stunned when out of nowhere Lake Tekapo came into view!

Lake Tekapo – Turquoise!

We stopped for a few quick snapshots, eager to keep going as Gideon was still napping. However, the stop got him waking up. So as we came upon the second turquoise lake of Lake Pukaki, we decided it was time for all of us to stop and get out of the car.

Gideon was thrilled to get out of the car, as you can see by his cheeky grin.

After walking around for a little bit and getting some delicious Salmon sashimi from the little shop, we were ready for a few family photos.

I love this shot! (Andrew wore the perfect shirt too!)

We weren’t the only ones who thought it was a great place to take pictures, either. The stranger who snapped our shots took one that included the couple having their wedding shots being taken too!

The Randles… and The Newlyweds

The unimaginably bright turquoise of these lakes was stunning to say the least. It certainly goes on my list of favorites from New Zealand!

Beautiful sites aside, it was a bit nippy. Rather than eat lunch bundled up, we just sat down in our warm car where we could admire Lake Pukaki, and eat some PB&J.

White short sans bib + PB&J = bad idea.

Mt. Cook … or Tasman Glacier

If you look closely in the shots above you’ll see that their are mountains in the background of Lake Pukaki. But those mountains, namely the famed Mt. Cook, are shrouded in clouds. Regardless of the cloud cover, we drove up alongside Lake Pukaki to Mt. Cook. I’m glad we did, for it was the most splendid ride to drive alongside the turquoise waters. When we got to the visitor center at Mt. Cook, it was all rainy – not good for a hike at all, much less visibility of the peak. But it cleared up just long enough for us to be willing to risk a shorter hike to see the Tasman Glacier.

Right in the middle of the picture you can see the Tasman glacier.

Though a bit unimpressive, it was neat to be able to see a glacier, even if we couldn’t see Mt. Cook. And the views around us were still great, even if we couldn’t see all of the snow capped peaks that were all around us!

Great views though!

We set up camp in nearby Twizel for the night. Since we hadn’t done but one load of laundry since we arrived in New Zealand, Adrielle set about using the laundry facilities at the campgrounds to get all our clothes cleaned.

Day 8: Wanaka – Haast

The next morning we chatted with our camping neighbors. They had a boy just a few days older than Gideon who was born in the same hospital as Gideon! They lived in Singapore for a few years before moving to Australia, and now were visiting New Zealand just as we were. Small world.

Gideon wasn’t much for small talk though and demonstrated that he was ready to go!

Um, pal, that’s not your seat either!

Wanaka

After Gideon got a good nap, and the parents had driven for a while, we arrived at Wanaka. Picking up some information brochures at the visitor center we realized that there were some options of bike rentals that included child seats. Gideon and Adrielle decided we couldn’t leave all the bike riding to Andrew, so we voted for a bike ride to see the area.

Gideon loved the special handles that were just for him!

(Did we mention we lugged his helmet all the way from Singapore just in case we found a good place to bicycle as a family? The bike rental lady was quite impressed with his get-up.)

All set to go, we headed off on our bike ride.

Andrew’s second bike ride in New Zealand.

Much different than our typical Singapore bike riding scenery!

Due to riding with a little guy (okay, and a Mommy that wasn’t as fit as Daddy), we stopped for breaks along the way.

Bike riding is fun. Breaks are fun too.

After about 45 minutes of riding Gideon decided that the last 15 minutes of bumpy/hilly/off-roading bicycling was enough. He protested from his back seat until he fell asleep on a smooth road. Mommy was a little jealous because sleeping was a lot less work than bike riding against the wind up hills. But thankfully, going up hill mean down hill later! 🙂

Once we were finished our bike ride, Daddy rewarded his companions with ice cream, kiwi and chocolate flavors to be precise. A perfect way to cool down after a bike ride.

We had originally planned to stay the night in Wanaka, but since Gideon was ready for a nap (and by now we had learned that nap = prime driving time), we decided to make for Haast past.

We stopped right off the high way, and Andrew stayed in the car while I did a quick jaunt to see a waterfall.

Fantail waterfalls – Just another beauty of New Zealand

We stopped at Haast for the night at a near campground that had converted an old airplane hangar into pristine camping facilities (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.)

Probably one of the coolest (and CLEAN!) facilities we stayed at!

Day 9: Fox Glacier – Hokitika

The next morning after a short bit of driving we sighted the West Coast of New Zealand!

We made it to the West Coast!

We had to choose between two of the most famous glaciers, Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier. Knowing that we weren’t going to attempt a long guided hike (expensive and not Gideon friendly) nor a fancier option (such as helicoptering up to the glacier), we decided to go for the simpler and less popular, Fox Glacier. Besides, the forecast wasn’t calling for weather that would be favorable for viewing the glaciers anyways, so we didn’t have high expectations.

Lake Matheson

One of the perks of visiting Fox Glacier, was that we were able to do the hike around nearby Lake Matheson. It was a nice quiet lake and very peaceful to walk around. The weather and view were quite agreeable as well.

A beautiful lake reflecting the sky above.

Even Gideon enjoyed admiring the view of the lake.

Mommy & son sharing the view.

While the view was nice, it wasn’t till we were leaving and we stopped at the gift shot that we realized what we were missing. Although it had been clear above us, it hadn’t been clear over the mountains. In fact the whole time, the clouds we had admired were shrouding the famed mountain peaks of New Zealand! Again, we missed “seeing” Mt. Cook. (See here.)

Fox Glacier

After the nice hike, we headed to Fox Glacier. The visibility of the glacier was predicted to be pretty limited, so we weren’t optimistic, but we decided we would try going for a short hike to see if we could see it anyways. We had come all this way, right?

We didn’t stop along the hike to take many pictures, as there were multiple signs warning “NO STOPPING” due to the risk of land/rock slides. The view of sheer mounds of boulders right next to you encouraged that you keep up the pace. Eventually we hopped over a stream, rounded a corner, and:

The ice and rock of Fox Glacier, roughly 1km from where we were standing.

I’m sure that it looked far less impressive than it would’ve had the visibility been great or had we been seeing the glacier from the top rather than the bottom. However, it is still cool to have gotten so close to such a glacier! Adrielle was worried about the stream we had just hopped over becoming impassible (without waterproof shoes anyways) as the time wore on, so we all headed back content to have sighted the glacier.

Hokitika & The Glow Worm Dell

We camped at Hokitika for night, thankful for a town that had a fully stocked grocery store as we were in need of supplies food. As a bonus, our campground was right across from The Glow Worm Dell. So, after sunset we walked across the road and into the grove of trees waiting to spot the little bioluminescent creatures. Sure, enough, the “worms” were there! Not quite as impressive as the Glow Worm Caves, but still neat to be able witness these incredible creatures once again. Oh, and did I mention this little gem was free too?

Day 10: Hokitika – Punakaiki

In the morning we set about completing our morning routine, which included taking apart our house and packing it up.

Gideon helping Daddy pack up. Awesome Daddy multitasks.

Hokitika Glass Studio

After packing up, we spent the morning leisurely strolling through the main street of this little tourist town. We mailed some post cards and picked up some souvenirs. Our favorite stop was the glass studio in town. It was filled with beautiful figurines hand crafted from blown glass. We were only sorry that we were there on a Sunday when the glass blowers weren’t in, so it was more of a gallery. But still cool.

Punakaiki

The road between Hokitika and Punakaiki, our next destination, was never very far from the coast. And at times we were right upon it, being flanked with the beautiful sea water.

The West Coast in its splendor!

After a stop for lunch in Greymouth we finished the trip to Punakaiki. We knew we had missed the high tide “show,” but were still eager to see the famed Pancake Rocks. We weren’t disappointed.

A-MAZING!

One of my favorite things about this place was a plaque that talked about how “science” fell short of adequately explaining how these rocks came to exist… I just smiled imagining how much fun the Creator had stacking these rocks together 🙂

Enjoying stack after stack of “pancakes”

The guys enjoying themselves too.

One of my favorite moments was turning into a stack of rocks and looking up to see the shape rock formation echoed in the clouds behind it!

Matching rocks and clouds.

Supposedly, the best show that Punakaiki had to offer was when the water would burst through the openings in the rocks at high tide. Since we were ahead of schedule on our itinerary, we decided to stay at Punakaiki through the night till the next high tide in the late morning.

So we set up camp… with Gideon’s help.

Proudly helping out.

(But Andrew did most of the work.)

Andrew proudly showing off the home he built 😉

And then we went down to check out the beach. Despite not being dressed for playing in the sand, we figured why not?

Gideon had so much fun with the sensation of sand in his fingers and toes.

Day 11: Punakaiki – Christchurch

The next morning we made sure to pack up with enough time to get to the pancake rocks for the high tide “blow holes” as they called it. The name became a reality a few minutes later when we saw puffs of mist coming out of holes in the ground!

The sea water get’s trapped in the rocks, and comes out of “blow holes.”

Although the skies were much drearier than the previous visit to the rocks, the whole scene was alive as water sprayed and roared as it crashed into the rock formations.

If only I could attach the soundtrack to this sight!

It was quite the site to behold, and well worth staying the night.

The water and rocks collided is such a grand and majestic manner!

Arthur’s Pass

Needing to get back to Christchurch which was back on the East side of the islands, we had to get through the mountain range to do so. We chose the route through Arthur’s Pass to do so. I’m so glad we had the privilege of driving through the wonderful world of New Zealand. Such an experience to drive right through the mountains!

Over the mountains and through the woods…

We even spotted some Keas while we were stopped eating our lunch.

Don’t feed them… okay by me! Rather intimidating looking bird!

Castle Hill

As we continued to close the gap between us and Christchurch the landscape continued to change. Various grounds reminded us of the terrain of Lord of the Rings (go figure). Some majestic. Some just bizarre.

The grass was dotted with rocks, great and small.

Curious, we pulled over into a small parking lot and got out to explore.

More than happy to be Daddy’s little explorer.

With such a backdrop, how could we not pause and impose on a stranger to practice his photo taking skills?

The whole happy explorer clan.

The sites of rocks toppled on top of each other breaking up the grassy hills was quite something!

Castle Hill, also known as Kura Tawhiti.

Eventually though we made it back to Christchurch and set up “home” again.

Day 12: Christchurch

The last morning of camping was also the most miserable. We woke up to rainy weather and gloomy skies. Andrew graciously did the dismal task of packing up a wet tent while getting soaked himself. (It’s not exactly practical to hold an umbrella and pack up a tent at the same time.) We gladly got out of our last campsite and headed to some warm shops. Although not very “touristy” we spent the better part of the day doing some shopping for things (like shoes – we bought 6 pairs for the family) that we thought might be a bit easier/cheaper to find in New Zealand. Once we were shopped out we checked into our motel for the night. While I stayed behind to do some packing (and napping), Andrew did a quick trip to the nearby Air Force Museum.

I’m glad he took some pictures to show me.

After he got back we headed out to downtown Christchurch to a pizzeria that I had picked out for dinner. What greeted us was a downtown that was still struggling to recover from previous earthquakes.

Buildings and roads still in a half-worked-on stage.

Unfortunately the pizzeria had already closed by the time we arrived, but we were glad to have seen the downtown area, even if it was a bit sad. We found a Nando’s within walking distance from our motel, and settled for a dinner of some spicy chicken.

Day 13: CHC – SYD – SIN

The next morning we woke up at 3:30 to leave in time to catch our flight(s) home.

At the airport early enough to see the moon set in the dawn.

Gideon did exceptionally well for having gotten shortchanged on his night’s sleep. He was perky enough to make full use of the great play ground indoors a few gates down from our departure gate.

Using up his energy.

The flights went well, but the layover of 7 hours was a bit long and seemed to drag on.

But we were glad to have spotted a Christmas Koala in the Sydney Airport.

(If ever again we go to Sydney, I don’t think we’ll spend much time at the airport since we’ve walked it a few times over!)

We finally arrived home in Singapore late Wednesday night (early Thursday in NZ) with tired bodies but content and happy hearts. I am oh so thankful that the Lord granted the dream of visiting New Zealand!

New Zealand North Island

Background

For a while now, it has been a dream to visit New Zealand. Andrew was kind enough to agree to make that dream a reality. (It didn’t hurt that he had to find a way to use up 2 weeks of saved up leave time from work before the end of the year, or it would disappear.) We figured that it would be easier to do the trip now (compared to later!) while we have one youngster and live relatively close in Singapore. Due to a few scheduling constraints we weren’t able to finalize the idea nor the flights for the trip until less than two weeks before we were to leave! But we decided short notice wouldn’t be enough to stop us from having a lovely time. The two goals for our itinerary were to pick something we could handle on a reasonable budget and with a budding toddler underfoot! Our itinerary in a nutshell would be to:

  • Fly through Sydney to Aukland
  • Spend about 1 week driving in a motorhome/campervan around the north/central part of the North Island.
  • Fly from Auckland to Christchurch
  • Spend another week, this time via a rental car, camping around the central/west coast regions of the South Island.
  • Fly from Christchurch via Sydney back home to Singapore

(Note, click on the headings for links to websites/reviews of the sites visited.)

Day 1: Singapore – midair

Despite Singapore being closer than our homeland of the East Coast, it is still a bit away from New Zealand. This is especially true if you’re traveling on a budget and you travel through Sydney. We left late at night in Singapore…

Day 2: Sydney – Auckland

And 7 hours after we took off in Singapore, due to the time change we arrived early the next morning in Sydney.

Enjoying Sydney … from the confines of the airport.

Originally I would’ve liked to have traveled straight to New Zealand, but I think doing travel in spurts helped all three of us adjust to the time difference. And not to mention the layover gave Gideon a chance to not be cooped up in a plane!

Having fun in the airport before getting back on a plane.

After short-ish layover another 3 hour flight from SYD to AKL. Thankfully Gideon did splendidly! Even though he only slept a few short hours, he dutifully lounged in the basinet/chair in the airplane for most of our long flight. And during the second flight we had the blessing of a empty seat to help deal with the little guy. Even though the flight went well for all involved, it was nice to land and get settled in our new [motor]home. We spent the first afternoon doing grocery shopping and then driving a few hours before stopping in Miranda for our first night.

Day 3: Matamata – Rotorua

Amazingly Gideon slept through his first night in New Zealand and woke up pretty much on time. I think the combination of being tired from traveling and not sleeping a full night’s sleep the night before allowed his body to be flexible to the time change.

On our way to Matamata (the town where the Hobbiton was located) we stopped at a lovely quirky cafe, called the Corogate cafe. (It was really a play on words as it is the “gateway” to the “Coromandel Peninsula” – which we skipped due to time.)  

A quirky little cafe – good for a caffeine boost!

I don’t know whether to take it as a compliment or not when the lady who was running the little shop wondered at the origin of our accents. She said, in a proud manner, how she could typically could figure out where someone was from based on their accents. But she hadn’t thought we were American (she even thought she would be able to tell what general area of the States we were from, but nope)! IN fact, she really couldn’t figure out where we were from, until she asked. I guess the Singaporean-ness has messed up with our American English? I never thought Americans had a nice accent anyways – go figure.

Hobbiton

Though determined to see New Zealand in a laid back manner on a budget, we did want to see a few sites. At the top of the list was Hobbiton – home to the movie set where the scenes of the Shire in The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit are shot. We were worried it might be raining all day, but decided it was now or never. Thankfully, the Lord stopped the rain right as Andrew bought the tickets for the tour! We were guided around the Shire by a lovely young gal from the local town of Matamata who cheerful peppered us with neat trivia while giving us time and space to be tourists! Of course she dutifully brought us past Bilbo’s house:

One of the most iconic homes in Middle Earth under “the hill”!

(More hobbitton pictures to follow in a future post soon!) As we were ending our tour with a stop at the Green Dragon, the sun and blue skies broke forth.

Yay! Blue skies!

Since the whole set is in the middle of a very large sheep farm, there were some fenced in sheep right next to the parking lot. Gideon had quite a bit of fun playing near them but didn’t understand why they didn’t come closer to him!

(Sheep behind the fence…) The boy’s gotta practice his walking.

We stopped for lunch and some play time before making our way  during Gideon’s nap to Rotorua to camp for the night.

Day 4: Rotorua – Taupo

Whakarewarewa Forest

We spent the morning at the Redwood Forest. (Yay for free site seeing!)

The Redwoods… but in New Zealand

It was interesting to discover that these were the same type of Redwoods as in California, just younger. They had been planted along with several hundred types of trees long ago in an effort to see what types of trees would do well in the New Zealand environment, purposely for tree framing. But later, the forest was donated to the Department of Conservation.

Up… up… and up…

Since I had always wanted to visit the forests in California, I found it especially neat that I was able to do so while in NZ!

I think Gideon enjoyed the trees too!

While Gideon and Mommy took their naps, Andrew rented a bike and went blazing through some of the mountain bike trails associated with the forest.

Probably one of Andrew’s highlights of New Zealand.

If we had to do the trip again (we wouldn’t complain) – the mountain biking would go on the list of repeats for Andrew! But we couldn’t spend the rest of our two weeks mountain biking (Gideon voted against it) – so we moved on towards Taupo.

Wai-O-Tapu thermal Wonderland

Right between Rotorua and Taupo was a Geothermal Wonderland. As the name suggests, this bizarre land area was filled with wonder.

Caves/holes created by the thermal activity were all around.

The picture doesn’t do justice to the sound that could be heard. In some areas the sound was hissing from the steam, and other areas evoked what you would imagine from a bubbling witches cauldron.

Soil and earth at a rolling boil.

Although the sounds were intriguing, I think I liked best the colors.

Some areas were drab and grey, but others had pools filled with natural chemicals that brought about such odd colors!

This area was dubbed the artist’s pallet, so full of color it was!

It started to rain a bit steadily so we rushed by the artist’s pallet to get to some shelter. Thankfully the rain let up. In fact, when we got to the tip of the walking loop where the green lake was, it was sunny!

Blue and white skies over a bright green lake!

Depending on the area it seemed like you were walking through a wonderland shrouded in mist… except that the “mist” smelt strongly of sulfur.

Mist? or steam? or something else…?

Although the aroma was strong, you sort of got used to it. Indeed you were impressed by all the sites that you didn’t pay the smell too much mind.

Wonderland is right.

At the end of the walk we were greeted by one of the most strongly colored spots yet.

Lime green. I kid you not.

Of course, this color was none other than Grandma’s favorite, so we had to stop for a pose!

Posing with the Grandma Green!

As we left the park there was a separate area devoted to mud pools.

Violent mud!

As bizarre as it was, I think the bubbling mud was one of favorites!

It looks like it’s from another world!

Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley

We followed some markings from off the highway to a little campground outside of Taupo. What greeted us was a campground complete with a mini petting zoo and some quiet walks through a geothermal area.

I think Gideon was more excited with the chicken than all the rest of the sites during the day!

The little “campground” was filled with animals, including Adrielle’s favorite:

Introducing Gideon to bunnies (of which there were several)!

And probably because people, like us, had just come from a colorful thermal world, they included vibrant peacocks in their collection.

Strutting his colors at us.

We took a nice walk to see the thermal activity in the area before settling in for dinner and sleep.

More thermal wonders.

Day 5: Taupo – Waitomo – Kawhia

Huka Falls

The next day we started off with Huka Falls.

Huka Falls

Two things impressed us with this waterfall: the turquoise color and the volume! But as the walks around the falls/rapids were supposed to take a few hours, we decided just to look at the falls but not do the hike, especially with a little guy in tow! Instead we headed to:

Huka Honey Hives

Just a minute down the road from the falls, we stopped at the honey shop raved about online. What the reviews didn’t predict was how well Gideon would pose outside the shop!

Mommy = queen bee. Gideon = happy worker bee!

But the place got even better as we went inside!

Bees – behind glass, the way I like them!

The little boutique had a little bit for everyone. It had a contained home for the busy bees where we could admire and appreciate them.

That’s a lot of bees!

It had a few play areas for kids of different ages.

Having a blast with all the honey and bee themed toys!

And it had a tasting section and a cafe to tantalize our tastebuds. On top of all this, their prices were reasonable (you could find something for any budget range) and the staff beyond friendly!

Taupo

We stopped in the town to use the playground and get some lunch.

They even had a baby swing!

As we headed out of town a bicycle caught our eye. Not just any bicycle. A larger than life bicycle! The advantage of driving on our own is we could stop, just because we wanted to!

I never thought it would happen, but we found a bike too big for Andrew!

Glow Worm Caves

We drove to Waitomo and arrived just in time for the last tour at the glow worm caves. As it was at the end of the day, it was a nice small group. As our guide started he asked where everyone was from. Come to find out, all of us (two other groups for a total of 10 including the guide) were from Singapore!

Overpriced, perhaps, but really one of the highlights of New Zealand!

Unfortunately, they didn’t allow photographs until the end… (so as to not disturb the glow worms with the light from the cameras). Oh well, without a fancy camera it would be hard to capture them in their glory. It would be like trying to get the starlit sky to show up on a low budget camera – it just wouldn’t do it justice.

The boat that we road in to see the glow worm cave.

Morokopa Falls

We drove a half hour after the adventure in the caves to see a local waterfall. For as little-known as this waterfall seemed to be, we were pretty impressed.

Did I mention it was free? Whoop whoop!

What we didn’t factor in was that there weren’t any nearby powered campsites. And my camera battery had died. So we really wanted a powered site so that we could recharge the batter before another day of site seeing. Andrew bravely plowed on in the motor home around bendy roads in the twilight until we finally made it to a motorhome camp site. Between a bendy road and a Gideon who was done with riding in a car, that was probably the hardest 30 minutes of the whole trip in New Zealand. But it was quickly forgot after a good warm meal and a sound night’s sleep.

Day 6: Ngarunui – Auckland

Bridal Veil Falls

We traveled some more windy roads, some unpaved, in an effort to go see Bridal Veil Falls. At first we were discouraged as we came upon closure and detour signs. We gave up the hope of going to the falls, but were later rewarded when we saw that there was a different (and better) access point further down the road!

A long drop!

Ngarunui Beach

We figured we couldn’t leave the north island without visiting a beach. So we headed to the edge of the island to the black sands of Ngarunui beach.

Ngarunui beach (don’t ask me how it’s pronounced)!

Though summer seasons prevailed, we decided the water was too cold and to just admire the sights rather than the touch of the water!

awww – I love my hubby

Gideon didn’t know he was missing going in the water, he was just thrilled to be able to practice walking some more!

His surfer pose

Auckland Botanic Gardens

During afternoon nap we drove the rest of the way to Auckland. Amazingly, we had time to kill so we stopped at the botanical gardens.

They had a great kids play area complete with fun rocks!

Personally, my favorite part was the hydrangea garden, but then, I’m biased.

Me next to the flowers that made up my bridal bouquet.

I think we all enjoyed the botanic gardens, and were only sorry we didn’t have more time to kill!

More walking practice.

That night we stayed at a campsite right next to the airport so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving time before catching our flight.

Day 7: Auckland – Christchurch

We said goodbye to our home of the north island and headed to the airport to fly to south island.

Our home away from home.

There, I did it! I posted some of our pictures from New Zealand, before the end of 2013. Now, onto cataloguing our adventures in the South Island. I think it’ll have to wait till next year 😉

Telunas, Indonesia – Getting Away

There are so many vacationing spots and sight seeing destinations in Southeast Asia. I am convinced that even if we lived in Singapore for a decade, we wouldn’t have enough time to see all that we would like to see. That being said, we are doing our best to take time while we live here to visit other countries and enjoy the diversity that is SE Asia. Unless we have a good excuse not to (like having a baby) we try to take the opportunity to visit other countries while family is visiting us. For Tam’s visit we decided we wanted to get out of Singapore with her. As a surprise to her, we booked a trip to Telunas Beach Resort in Indonesia.

The Trip There

In order to get there we had to take a ferry from Singapore to Batam, Indonesia.

Excited sisters

Excited sisters

Somewhere on the ferry ride we realized that most of the other passengers on the ferry were guys. I theorized that there must be some sort of Men’s Retreat happening. Sure enough, we would later find out that the a the men (and young guys too) from International Baptist Church (the church we attended before Crossroads) were going to the same resort as us for a weekend retreat.

Once we got out of customs in Indonesia, a host from the resort met us, two females, and the large group of men. He helped us transfer to the local boats that would see us to our destination.

Our "sweet ride" awaits

Our “sweet ride” awaits

Gideon didn’t care so much for the excitement in the air and all the admirers he had, he just wanted his next meal.

Happy mommy & impatient baby

Happy mommy & impatient baby

… but eventual he got what he wanted.

And we're off!

And we’re off!

Up until this point we had still been relatively close to Singapore, but now we were really leaving Singapore behind!

Goodbye Singapore! Hello Indonesia!

Goodbye Singapore! Hello Indonesia!

though we love Singapore we were looking forward to the vacation, even Gideon was happy (now that he was fed).

They had a baby life jacket if we needed it, but Daddy's arms were a more welcome feel I think!

They had a baby life jacket if we needed it, but Daddy’s arms were a more secure feel!

Gideon (and the rest of us) did fine for the first part of the trip. But as the trip droned on, the adults began to wonder how much longer it would be and the infant started to protest. We couldn’t tell why he was protesting. Nothing seemed to calm him; he screamed for the last 30 minutes of the ride. 😦

Finally! The daylight was quickly slipping away, but the lights of the resort were getting bigger and brighter as we drew nearer.

Finally! The daylight was quickly slipping away, but the lights of the resort were getting bigger and brighter as we drew nearer.

I was ready to get off the boat and figure out what the little guy wanted.

Tam's smile in the dim light reflects how we felt after seeing the resort ahead

Tam’s smile in the dim light reflects how we felt after seeing the resort ahead

As we got closer the boat driver shut off the engine. The whrring subsided as he directed our boat close to the dock. Even better the screaming child in our arms stopped crying. Apparently he didn’t like sitting right next to the engine for over an hour! Note to self: don’t sit in the back near the engine when with Gideon in the boat next time.

We were welcomed by a warm and friendly staff offering a welcome drink (think Orange Julius with mango and spice). We took our drinks to our new room and then ate dinner. After our travels we got Gideon into his PJs.

A much happier and quieter Gideon ready for bed

A much happier and quieter Gideon ready for bed

We must’ve been tired too, for we laid down while Gideon was drifting off only to find ourselves drifting off to. I woke in the middle of the night to take off my contacts and slip into PJs – but otherwise we ended up sleeping through the night as much as Gideon! The next morning I remarked to Andrew, “My, you got dressed quickly.” Only to realize he never switched what he was wearing! :p

Our home away from home – First Day

The extra sleep must’ve been needed, because boy were we rested. What a nice way to start out our time at the Telunas Beach Resort.

The view behind my pillow as I gave Gideon his breakfast

The view behind my pillow as I gave Gideon his breakfast

It was so relaxing to wake up in a chalet on top of the water!

All of the buildings were on stilts above the water

All of the buildings were on stilts above the water

The dawn light allowed for the perfect opportunity to quietly soak in our surroundings

The wonderful Deluxe Family Room accommodations at Telunas (baby not included)

The wonderful Deluxe Family Room accommodations at Telunas (baby not included)

The peaceful view wasn’t the only perks of the resort. The sounds were relaxing too. Depending on the weather and time of day, there was either the calming white noise of rain, the chirp of geckos hiding in the rooftop (I didn’t know geckos chirped. Did you?), the quiet crash of small waves, the gentle lapping of water, the creaks of the floorboards as someone walked on the boardwalk, or silence!

Although our main object of getting away was to relax and spend time with Tam, we did plan to take a hike while we were at Telunas. After breakfast and Gideon’s first nap, we headed out with one of the staff, our guide for the hike, along with about 10 other people from the men’s group. The hike was wonderful, but worthy of its own post (to come soon). I will tell you though that it was a beautiful day for a hike in Indonesia!

Gorgeous weather

Gorgeous weather

The rest of the day was spent practicing the art of doing nothing.

Day 2

The next morning we walked down the long boardwalk to the beach.

The walk from our chalet to the beach

The walk from our chalet to the beach

We  asked one of the men from the Men’s group that was wandering around on the beach to take our picture(s).

The Randles at Telunas

The Randles at Telunas

The Randles Men

The Randles Men

Gideon & Mommy

Gideon & Mommy

Pictures wasn’t the only way we sought to take advantage of the water. Gideon and Mommy played in the water while Daddy & Aunt Tammy went Kayaking. The usually robust Andrew decided that he was more used to biking than Kayaking. (Not to mention the kayak wasn’t built for someone of his stature, and his long arms got injured just moving the paddle around!) The seasoned kayaker of our group (that would be Tam) went out for a solo kayak run after Andrew had his fill.

Tammy finishing her solo Kayaking

Tammy finishing her solo Kayaking

By the afternoon (it’s Sunday now) the men’s group and any other resort guests had headed back to the mainland and we had the resort to ourselves!

Gideon discovered that he had the resort’s two boxes of toys entirely to himself. He was in heaven!

Gideon was enamored with all the toys!

Gideon was enamored with all the toys!

I think he would’ve been just as content with just the jumbo legos from the box though. It definitely made entertaining him easier. All the playing tired him out!

Fast asleep for his nap in the play pen/cot provided by the resort

Fast asleep for his nap in the play pen/cot provided by the resort

The playing also seemed to produce quite the appetite in the fellow.

Eating BBQ sauce (it's really jarred prune and apples)

Eating BBQ sauce (it’s really jarred prune and apples)

Candlelight Dinner

Gideon wasn’t the only one who was thoroughly happy with his meal. One of our favorite meals (actually – I can’t think of one we disliked) was our candlelight dinner. Seeing it as an option on the resort’s website, we figured that it was a good opportunity to enjoy a couple’s dinner. It felt a little silly though as Tam was the only guest who ate the “regular” dinner… 🙂

We had our dinner in twighlight and candlelight set up on a secluded pier. The staff that was our server asked us what the special occasion was. We replied, “We have a babysitter. That’s the special occasion.” She seemed satisfied with the reason. (We certainly were.)

We were served Nasi Kuning (Indonesian for “yellow rice”) served in a lumpeng (“cone”). The rice loosely resembles a pile of gold and is usually saved for special occasions. (Due to the dim romantic lighting, we actually couldn’t tell that it was yellow until we looked at our pictures later.) The delicious rice was served with all sorts of delicious Indonesian dishes from beef, to chicken, to coconut veggies, and more! (Though we didn’t have the courage to try the side that our server indicated, “Eh… yes… it’s spicy!”)

You can see the top of the cone on my dish behind the serving platter.

You can see the top of the cone on my dish behind the serving platter.

The only downside of the dinner was that we could hear Gideon off in the distance, not exactly happy with being left alone with Aunt Tammy for the evening. But he eventually went to sleep despite Mommy & Daddy being away on a date.

After the dinner, Andrew and I spent the rest of the evening talking with Tam on our “porch.”

The walkway in front of our "porch"

The walkway in front of our “porch”

Last Day

The last day of our stay dawned. It was so silent. There was not lapping of the waves to be heard underneath our floorboards. We peeked out our chalet to find that the following scene!

"He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. " Psalm 23:3

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. ” Psalm 23:3

The calm water reflected morning sun beautifully.

Telunas Tranquility - Made us want to consider extending our stay!

Telunas Tranquility – Made us want to consider extending our stay!

It also figuratively reflected the peace we felt after getting away from Singapore for a few days.

The High Jump

Despite how relaxed we were, we had one more activity that we wanted to complete before heading back. The High Jump! We each had fun jumping into the cool calm water. The pictures we snapped are priceless, but [again] worth their own post.

The Trip Back

Before hopping into the small boat with our luggage and our host, we stopped to take our final group shots.

Gideon's shirt was very appropriate - it said "Later <picture of alligator"

Gideon’s shirt was very appropriate – it said “Later

So glad that this trip we were able to have a fourth in our group shot:

All four of us

All four of us

Then we took a local boat to a small town on the water where our resort host bought us tickets for a local ferry that would take us back to Batam.

Heading back to SG (And we remembered not to sit too close to the loud engine for Gideon's sake.)

Heading back to SG (And we remembered not to sit too close to the loud engine for Gideon’s sake.)

It’s not unusual for Gideon to get attention wherever he goes. But in Indonesia, the sight of westerners with a blond baby who was happy to smile at those who wanted to give him attention … well, let’s just say the whole town seemed to be smitten with him. Normally I don’t mind people’s attention (I’m sure I would do the same if I were in their place), but I did have a few minutes of nervousness. It came when a lady gestured her request to hold Gideon. Since Gideon was already being quite friendly with the lady, I let her hold him. What I didn’t expect was the lady to walk away from me carrying Gideon excited to show him off to others. My heart started pounding, but was calmed by the fact that our resort host followed the stranger and eventually brought my son back to me.

The experience did teach me to be a bit more cautious when it comes to friendly strangers wanting say hi to my smiley son. Next time when we’re in a very foreign place where Gideon is ogled by the Asians, I think I’ll try to keep him in the carrier where the most people can do is look and touch his hair.

In any case, our ferry came after a few minutes. I’m sure we made quite a scene as we got onto the local ferry baby in hand and later put him in his carrier while he was crying and going to sleep. But the other passengers were kind enough to keep their interest limited to staring and cell phone shots. I later joked to Andrew that I’m sure a picture of our blond boy is being sent to cell phones across Indonesia!

We arrived back in Batam where another resort staff member helped us make our connection for our ferry back to Singapore. It was a bit of traveling, but we made it home in one piece (or in 4, since there are for of us?). All the traveling was worth it. I would highly recommend the Telunas Beach Resort… but even more, I would recommend going with my sister. 🙂

Visiting Ao Nang, Thailand

In the States you get used to visiting other states for enjoyment. It’s not uncommon for visiting Canada or Mexico to be a “big deal” to some Americans.

Here in Singapore, the norm for people’s traveling habits is slightly more international.

It helps that Singapore is only half the size of either of our home counties of Anne Arundel or Washington counties. (In other words, the island country of Singapore is not that big.) Consequently, if you travel much more than an hour (or less) out of necessity you have to either go into the water or another country.

The past week was my Spring break – yay! Since the next holiday (since CNY) that Andrew gets off from work is Good Friday, we decided that we needed to get away before then. Last Saturday took advantage of the abundance of options for nearby countries, and we boarded a plane in Singapore headed to Thailand!

Our main goal of our vacation: get away and relax.

About an hour and half after taking off, we had already landed in Krabi, Thailand. As we walked out of immigration/customs we were greeted with our first new experience. Someone was holding a sign with our names on it! Maybe it seems silly, but there’s always been a small part of me that’s jealous of the people that get off the plane and regardless of not knowing people someone is waiting there especially for them. This time it was our turn to have that special treat. Our pre-arranged taxi driver (who had been holding the sign) drove us the 30 minutes to our resort.

Our private bungalow

Supsangdao Resort

Beyond the secluded feel of the resort, and the AC in the rooms, there were other reasons we chose the resort. One of them:

Worthy criteria for choosing a resort!

I think a bath tub is one of those things that you don’t realize how much you miss it until you no longer have it. This deep tub definitely helped accomplish the “relax” part of our goal for the trip.

After getting settled into our little bungalow, the staff drove us down to the beach.

Ao Nang "Rocks"!

The main beach, Ao Nang, had a definite Ocean City feel in that it was lined with countless restaurants and beach shops. Unfortunately, it also had the “invaded by Europeans” feel by the number of scantily clad individuals. (Andrew and I both quickly agreed that old, overweight, very white European, men should NOT wear speedos! 😦 )

Longboats on Ao Nang beach

All the long boats on the beach were taking people to/from nearby beaches and islands. The drone of their motors didn’t exactly provide the nicest soundtrack. But no matter, the rocks and cliffs jutting out of the water made up for the view what the soundtrack lacked.

We quickly discovered the delicious foods that were to be had sold by street cart vendors.

One of our favorites was what was advertised as a “pancake.”

To the people in Singapore, it was much closer to an Indian prata or murtabak than a pancake. To the people in USA, sort of like a cross between a crepe, and an omelet. Combinations of fillings/toppings that we tried during our stay included banana & peanut butter, banana & nutella, and pineapple & honey. Mmm – all delicious!

(Oh, also, check out the mirror in the video above. The mirror is the object intruding into the video from the lower left. It’s the mirror of the motorcycle that is the backbone of the cart!)

The next we branched out and tried out a bbq style food cart.

I had corn on the cob on a stick. Oh – so good! (Big & heavy too!) Andrew tried chicken IN a stick. Yup, you heard me. Chicken in a stick. From best we could tell, they took a chopstick looking stick, split it down the middle, put the chicken in the middle, and then wired the stick shut around the chicken.

Enjoying food on & in sticks 🙂

After taking our fill of food on sticks we walked the short walk to the neighboring beach, Nopharat Thara. This beach was a little less touristy and not as crowded by longboats and Europeans.

Nopharat Thara Beach

Because of the low tide, even with wearing shorts and capris, we could walk out a good 50 feet without getting soaked.

Low tide

That night we thought, how often do you get the chance to eat dinner overlooking the beach?

Our conclusion: Not often. Let’s do it.

So after Sunset…

Ao Nang Sunset

The next morning, after breakfast, we were picked up by our bike tour guide. We picked up another couple and headed through the countryside filled with rubber tree and palm oil tree plantations.

Before the ride and the sweat (photo from tour guide)

The first leg of the trip was definitely some mountain biking. It was the first time Andrew had ever ridden on a bike with real front end suspension. Good thing too – we needed that suspension for the back roads!

Riding the back roads (photo from tour guide)

Shortly after this photo was taken we almost ran into a heard of cows running through the country side! It was quite a startling sight to see, especially since we were only a few feet away from them, and since there was nothing keeping them from coming onto the road we were on! We were too startled and trying to focus on riding on our bikes away from them to snap any pictures!

After a tiring first leg we finally reached our destination: Phanom Benja national park.

Phanom Bench - waterfall

Not only was there a breath taking waterfall, but we got to catch our breath by taking a refreshing dip into the pool next to the waterfall.

Cooling off (photo from tour guide)

Thankfully the second leg of the trip back to our starting point wasn’t on back roads. (Because I don’t think my butt bone could’ve taken more!) Definitely a fun way to see part of Thailand.

The rest of the day we took it easy and stayed near the resort pool and AC. The next day we headed back to Singapore, well rested.

Now we can say we’ve been to Thailand! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go again.

I’ve been “Shanghaied”

Many of you knew that I had an unexpectedly extended stay in Shanghai. It’s a few weeks later now, and we are back safe and sound in Singapore. Now that we’re getting into a routine again, I am taking the time to sit down to write about my experience.

It’s funny how the Lord uses circumstances to change your perspective from complaining to thankful. I wish I could say that I was quick to be thankful… but my stay in Shanghai reminded me that I am often quicker to turn towards complaining, even if it is inward & in my heart.

Almost a month ago now, I was heading back to the States for my Christmas break. To save money we bought a ticket that would fly me to Shanghai, keep me in Shanghai over night, and fly the rest of the way back to the States in the morning. While I checked in my luggage in the Singapore Changi Airport I was notified that I would have to un-check and re-check the luggage at my lay-over Shanghai. Initially I wasn’t too pleased about it. Apparently the reason for needing to re-check my luggage later was that my connecting flight was after midnight while my initial flight arrived before midnight. Oh well.

I made it to Shanghai fine. But that’s when trouble started …

Somehow (I am still puzzled as to how) within a minute of getting off the plane I noticed a pain on my finger. I looked down to see a small chunk of skin a few layers deep missing from one of my fingers. Great.

A minute later as I was walking to go find immigration/customs/etc, my flip-flop decided to break. Not just like a simple “top starts to release from the bottom.” No, this was a “the middle of the flip flop wouldn’t stay in and there was no way it was going to stay on my foot.” The good news, I was right about flip-flops being easy to take on/off for the purpose of traveling. The bad news, I didn’t consider that one of the pairs would break. Thus I ended up walking through the airport with one bare foot. I am sure I looked ridiculous walking through immigration with one bare foot while everyone around me had donned downy coats in preparation of the cold weather.

This is the first reason I became thankful for un-checking my luggage: I had shoes/socks in there! I fixed my shoe situation and continued walking.

After I got out of customs a polite lady at a random counter asked if I need help. Come to find out she was trying to convince me to stay at a hotel. I tried to explain that I was spending the night in the airport and that I couldn’t not leave the airport as I didn’t have a visa. (Perhaps I might have been able to go to an airport hotel for the night without a visa… I don’t know. But either way, I wasn’t planning on leaving the premises.) She said, “oh, but it will get very cold here.” I helplessly responded that I didn’t have much say in the matter, and thanked her for her time.

She was right. It was cold in the airport. I had already put on my jacket from my carry on… but it didn’t take long for me to realize it was nice for me to have my checked luggage with me. My coat left the checked luggage and went on my back. I settled in on a chair for the night. (2nd reason I became thankful for un-checking my luggage.)

Thanks to my thoughtful husband, I had a engaging book to keep me occupied during the night when I wasn’t napping. (Although, I am embarrassed to say that the book was found in the teenage section of the bookstore! Oh well, the “Inheritence” helped keep me occupied during my long haul…)

Morning dawned. The airport that held people napping through the night like myself awoke. And it thankfully started to warm up. (I guess they believe in energy conservation.) As the bustle increased, I got ready to go to my next destination: a gate. Luggage re-check went well, and I passed security fine.

I took another nap and read some more. Finally about 12 hrs after I had gotten off my previous plane, I boarded the plane bound for the US.

Getting On - Trial 1

The plane left the gate. We got about 300 ft. from the gate. Then we stopped.

We waited.

From my window seat I could see 5 workers walk out to under the plane. I don’t think this is a good sign.

We waited more.

We finally went back to the gate being told that there was a mechanical issue. (Note: they said “mechanical reason” but “issue” makes more sense.) This was not the gate I was looking forward to seeing again so soon. After more waiting (about 2hrs after we initially boarded the plain) an announcement was made that we were letting us off as the mechanical reason was not something that could be resolved right away. The announcement was accompanied with reassurance that they would let us know once they had more news.

People poured out of the plane and walked back to the boarding area, none too happy to be back in the same airport. I was thankful that I was off the plane in 2 hrs instead of 13… but I was hoping to get off in America, not China.

A multitude of passengers gathered around various flight attendants, each with their own version of what they thought would happen. I waited patiently away from the crowd that was growing in size & anger. It was unclear what was going to happen, and the poor flight attendants who seemed to have little more understanding than us were left to attempt to reassure the angry mass with empty promises.

Thankfully a sweet lady introduced herself to me and we struck up a happy conversation (while the unhappy dialogue continued apart from us). This lady was kind enough to let me hang around her and her group of American friends. Myself and the group held the opinion that there was no use getting angry at the flight attendants for a situation that was obviously out of their control. We decided to wait together until direction of what to do was more clear.

After a while the crowd dissipated (it seemed like many got fed up and left to go find lunch or a hotel or sympathy elsewhere). Snack & lunch were eventually served to those that were patiently waiting. However, there was no announcement of any sort, not even the notification that they were serving food. It was more like a realization that, “oh that person has food… oh they have food for us” … I was able to mooch off the group that let me stay near them.

I sort of lost track of time. But all we knew to do was wait.

The sun set.

Shanghai Sunset

I was thankful to have such a beautiful view. Had I not waited in the airport for so long I wouldn’t have seen such a breathtaking sunset. My pictures don’t do it justice though!

A long wait = A beautiful sight

Finally sometime around dinner time an announcement was given to move to Gate 18. We dutifully obeyed the instructions, but with little knowledge as to the purpose of the move.

We waited longer at the new gate.

The next announcement that was given was, “Please come up to the desk to receive your compensation.” It took a while before we realized what compensation was. Apparently if we signed a form in Chinese and put down our phone number they would give us 600 renminbi (approx. 100USD) in cash for the inconvenience of waiting. When it was my turn to receive cash there was a sudden flurry of activity/talking amongst the flight attendants.

A few minutes later an announcement came over the loudspeaker, “We are now boarding.” Just like that. No preamble… well, unless you count the hours of waiting with a total of three previous announcements as a preamble. The flight crew was so rushed to get people on the plane and into the air that no order was given to boarding the plane. It was every man for himself; just don’t get left behind!

As there was no warning before they suddenly told us to get on the plane, several fellow passengers were unprepared. Members of the group I had become friends with had just gone out to dinner. Friends ran frantically trying to find and retrieve them so that they would be able to make it onto the plane in time.

Within a short while all impatient passengers had been loaded up. We were all seated and ready to go.

Paraphrase of Announcement #5: “Some luggage was incorrectly put on this plane. Please be patient with us as the luggage situation is sorted out.”

That was not exactly what we wanted to hear. But we were by now accustomed to waiting, so we took it in stride as best we could. Eventually the situation was sorted out. The plane (apparently a new one, not the old plane) left the new gate. We headed to the runway. And finally we left Shanghai… and not a moment too soon.

I was thankful for several reasons:

  1. Had it not been for rechecking my baggage I would’ve been miserable, cold, and with 1 flip-flop & 1 bare foot. Instead, what I originally dreaded (rechecking the bag) was a huge, warm, blessing in disguise!
  2. The Lord blessed me with friends in the airport; I wasn’t alone.
  3. The sunset was gorgeous.
  4. I didn’t have a connecting flight. Many passengers had connecting flights that were made through other companies. Neither airline company was willing to take responsibility and put them on a new flight. I didn’t have to deal with that.
  5. We didn’t take a plane that had mechanical issues!
  6. We eventually arrived safely in New York JFK airport!!! Hurrah!
My brother met me at the subway station. He snapped this photo to send to my hubby who was waiting to hear if I arrived :

Tired but safe and sound