Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 7 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:
Huka Falls
Huka Falls Road, Taupo, New Zealand

This place is relatively easy to get to with relatively easy short walks to the waterfall viewing platform.
Huka falls - Ice blue beauty

At the waterfall, the water is icy blue and massive. The water is simply gushing through the channel.

At the bridge leading across the river, you can stop to hear the thunder of water.
Waterfall view obscured by undergrowth at viewing platform

The view of the waterfall is a little obscured by undergrowth. But i had a better photo on the opposite bank. This is rarely walked by visitors and can get pretty muddy on wet days.

View from opposite bank.

We are exploring the opportunity to take the huka falls cruise to get up close to the waterfall. As the cruise is not available at our preferred time slot, we decide to go for this walk instead.

New Zealand

Chris Jolly Outdoors - Maori Rock Carvings
Ferry Road, Taupo Boat Harbour, Taupo, New Zealand

We went for the Maori carving boat tour as i initially believed that there are plenty to see.
Picture with the Ngatoroirang

Turned out that the Maori carving is a very a very small section of the rock wall. And its exactly as shown on the picture and the most distinctive is the Ngatoroirang.

The carvings may look like the remains of an ancient Maori village but were in fact created in the late 70s by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and Jonathan Randell as a gift to Taupo.

The service provided on cruise is good. Blueberry muffin and hot coffee is provided and this is appreciated as it is pretty chilly once we head out to the lake.
Trout fishing

There is also a trout fishing  experience on this trip but unfortunately we are out of luck today. No fish is caught on the line and we head back empty-handed.

To Eat:

Dixie Brown - 3.5 stars, mid-range
38 Roberts Street, Taupo,  New Zealand  

We had such a good breakfast at Dixie Brown that we decide to head back to this place for lunch as well.

Must try is their original hot chocolate drink. We are presented a stick of dark chocolate and once immersed in hot warm milk it dissolve totally. The drink is rich and chocolaty but not too heavy that you can't finish it.

Egg Benedict on ciabatta toast smoked salmon is very flavourful with very delicious creamy hollandaise sauce.

We also ordered an omelette (Dixie Brown omelette) and this turns out better than the one we had at Le Cafe the day before. The cheese filling is a works perfectly with the ham, mushroom and spinach.

Lunch at Dixie Brown is less fulfilling than breakfast. For lunch, we ordered seafood chowder with toasted garlic bread and calamari with rice and salad. The soup is rich a little starchy. The calamari is very fresh and i like the batter a lot more than The Brantry. It has an almost Asian taste.

Chim Choo Ree - 3.8 stars, mid-range
The Brewery Building,14 Bridge Street, Hamilton, New Zealand

Best place to watch what's happening in the kitchen from the bar table.
This place was packed on the friday night. To secure a table, we agreed to sit at the bar table.

On the menu tonight are fried chicken, oysters au naturel, lamb rump. I love the fried chicken as its very flavourful. Though fried, it is retains the juices and is succulent.
Complimentary entree that makes us look forward to a good dinner.

Oysters are fresh but could have been better.

The lamb is still gamey. That's why i like lamb the least of all meats. No matter how well its cooked its really difficult to remove the gaminess. The rib was well roasted with crispy skin that is super duper yummy. The meat is tender and cooked to medium texture.
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I found the drinks offered on the menu most interesting. i.e Thyme lemonade and fresh ginger ale. Thyme lemonade is strongly recommended by the waitress. Though it sounds very exquisite but they don't make a good marriage. The ginger ale is a much tastier combination with a light tinge of ginger and soda.
Thyme lemonade and Fresh ginger ale

We end the dinner with a rice pudding mousse. This is also recommended by the waitress. It pretty and well presented but a little too sourish to be dessert. I like the crispy crumbs within the mousse that makes it a more textured dessert. But i think i would have enjoyed my dessert more if i had churros instead.
Pretty little rice pudding

To Stay:

IBIS Hamilton Tainui
18 Alma Street, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand

This place is pretty spacious with comfortable beds. The sound proofing is pretty inadequate and i can hear people along the walkways and the opening and closing of room doors.

Basic amenities are also provided here and we had 4 pillows for 2 people! Cool!
Parking on the street is free but a little difficult to find parking after 8 pm. Alternative parking is available at $15/ entry at sky city, return parking voucher is also availabe at IBIS counter for $20.

The water flow in the bath is also unstable and tepid. Just thought to highlight for those who are a little picky and insist on hot warm baths like me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 6 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:
Skyline - Gondola and Luge rides
Fairy Springs Road (PO Box 2353), Rotorua, New Zealand

Our first stop for the day is skyline. This place is located minutes away from OGO Rotorua. We took the gondola (cable car) to the top of the hill. From the gondola, we are able to view Lake Rotorua and its surrounds.

We also tried the Luge track. This track has various levels of difficulty which the driver decides which route to take. We choose the intermediate track and its quite fun and more enjoyable then the Luge track at sentosa.

After the race on the track, we headed to volcanic hills winery for some wine tasting.

Other activities to try are the Ziplines by soaring through the tree tops. For the mountain bikers, they have very adrenaline rushing bike tracks. Another fun adventure is the sky swing.

New Zealand

The Te Whakarewarewa thermal valley
17 Tryon Street, Whakarnewarewa Village, Rotorua, New Zealand

We joined an hour guided tour of the village (hangi meal) not included. The guide shared with us interesting facts of the region.

The full  name of the village is Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahao meaning the Gathering Place of the Army of Wahiao.
Area for cooking a hangi meal

I was pretty amazed that even the ground that we walked on is warm (its a very cold day). The highlight of the village is the maori cultural show. It is something that should not be missed and a must to attend. Showtimes are 11.15 am and 2 pm and includes the ferocious Haka (war dance), Waiata a Ringa (action songs), long and short stick games and Poi dancing.

I was able to view the huge Ponhutu (big splash) geyser from the village though not as close up as from Te puia. Ponhutu erupts at least once every hour and varies from 10 - 40 meters.

There are plenty of hot springs and mud pool to view. For the adventurous, there is also a 3 walking tracks to explore. Unfortunately for us, the track was closed to us when we visited. It was indicated that the tracks only require a low level of fitness

To Eat:

Le cafe de Paris - 3 stars, budget 
38 White St, Fenton Park, Rotorua 3015, New Zealand  
Simple cafe decor at Le cafe de Paris

We ordered omelette in 3 fillings (cheese, ham and mushrooms). The serving here is huge. Fortunately, i have someone to share. This dish is at least passable.

Since its a french cafe, our expectations for the croissants are naturally higher (think Paul in Paris). We are quite disappointed as the crust is not very crispy. It is nowhere comparable to what we tried at Ciabatta Bakery. Even the pain au chocolate is bad with the chocolate being hardened and not very rich.

I am not so impressed with this place and it is better to have my breakfast at Ciabatte Bakery again.

Volcanic Hills Winery Wine Tasting Room - 3.8 stars, budget 
Fairy Springs Road (PO Box 2353), Rotorua, New Zealand

This is the first place we tried for wine in NZ and the quality of the wine is pretty good.
I love the fact that the wine tasting paddle is offered for NZ 7.5 - NZ 12.50.

The wine is not sold in Singapore but should you like the wine you can also buy the wine and shipped them over to Singapore. There are various freight options to choose from.

From the tasting paddle, i love the Pinot Gris the most. Its not too sweet and also light on the palate and quite smooth to drink.

KFC - 4 stars, budget 
15 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua 3015, New Zealand  

I am not very certain if it is this outlet we went for our lunch but the 2 KFC located in Rotorua aren't very far from each other.

Somehow, i always felt that KFC always tasted better overseas. Not sure why? But it sure is finger licking good.

The Brantry - 4 stars, luxury 
45 Rifle Range Road, Taupe 2730, New Zealand  

This place is strongly recommended online so i had to check it out. I certainly didn't expect it to be a fine dining place for dinner and we are pretty dressed down for the occasion. Pretty odd when all the patrons are dressed in their Sunday best. Well, since we are tourists is guess dress code doesn't really apply.

Pricing wise for the ambiance its highly reasonable with entree and mains at NZ$45 for a set meal.
For myself i ordered coconut tamarind prawn tails for the entree and fresh market fish (salmon) for the mains. SO decided on crispy squid with spiced salt  and Eye fillet of beef.

The prawns are pan seared and mixed with mayonnaise with a tinge of curry. Very succulent and flavourful.

Base of the squid is mayonnaise, sausage and vinaigrette and topped with peppered coated fried squid. The pepper flavouring is too strong but with the squid this fresh, i am willing to overlook the overpowering peppery flavour.

Beef is well done but still very tender and juicy.

The fish is fresh and juicy and cooked to medium well. This is a first when a restaurant asked us how we want our fish to be done. The onions that came with it is well sautéed. This dish is served with mashed potato.

I am highly satisfied with this simple meal and all the serving size is just about right.

To Stay:

Hilton Lake Taupo Hotel
80-100 Napier Road, Taupo 3330, New Zealand
The outdoor heated pool to lounge for guests.

The room is quite big and has very comfortable beds. There is a small courtyard with hedges for privacy.

The bedroom

The bathroom is also warm, though i cannot remember if the floor is heated as well.
All amenities are provided including bedroom slippers. This is the only place we stayed that provided this.

There is no free wifi at Hilton. Fortunately, the public areas in the main lobby and near the dining areas have free wifi for guests. Free parking is available at guests own risk. There is secured basement parking at the hotel premises but this comes with additional cost.

Outdoor parking at the Hotel