Day 9 | Mount Aspiring National Park + Wanaka

HIKING. What everyone tells you to do in New Zealand and one of the biggest parts of our trip! I’m so excited to be able to share this post with everyone, finally, after putting it off for half a week (hey, I needed the rest).

Mount Aspiring National Park; The Blue Pools

We drove out 2 hours to head to the Blue Pools (something that’s been on my Pinterest travel bucket list). Every scenic drive is worth staying awake for, even at 8am, and we stopped twice to take some pictures before heading into the park. Below is a 10am picture of Lake Wanaka:


The Blue Pools track itself only takes about 25-30 minutes each way. I had such a hard time staying on the correct side of the road (the left side) and kept running into people who were heading out. The air quality was so pure, and one could hear birds chirping and the nearby waters rushing. It was truly a peaceful and calming experience!

There were two bridges we needed to cross before getting the view of the final destination, and I AM NOT A FAN OF SUSPENSION BRIDGES! First off, the max number of people that could be on one was 10…so I kept counting us and making sure there wasn’t another 5+ people coming behind or ahead of us.


After two wobbly bridges, we made it!! The scenery was so rewarding, and it was everything I’ve seen from online and more! The water was so blue due to the glacial waters and since it hasn’t rained in a few days, nothing has been tossed around and it was so icy and clear. We saw a group of German boys do bridge jumping into the waters, and it reminded me of the (once in my lifetime) experience when my friends and I cliff dived in Hong Kong.

Lunch Break in Wanaka: Kai Whakapai

Our first time in the little town of Wanaka was rewarded with a sunny, outdoor lunch, and unique food many of us have never tasted! Our group does the whole “5 people share 4 plates” kind of thing, and I make the decisions 99% of the time, so I always get full say in what we eat. This is what I ordered for everyone:

1. Kumara Fritters with Saute Spinach, Haloumi, Poached Eggs, Roast Pepper and Tomato Salsa
2. Turkish Lamb Skewers served with warm flat bread, spiced Moroccan style couscous, beet root, feta salad, and tzatziki dip
3. Ciabatta French Toast with Central Otago roasted stone fruit, vanilla mascarpone, and sweet, raspberry, and almond toasted dukkah
4. Soft Tacos with chimichurri marinated fish, black bean & quinoa salad, coleslaw, and tomato chili & lime salsa

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It isn’t over until we get dessert! Black Peak Gelato is pretty popular in the area, and we opted for the Chocolate and Tim Tam flavor, while our friends chose Central Otago apricot and chocolate.


Mount Iron Track

We figured we would squeeze in a short 1.5 hour hike before heading back for the day. The first 10-15 minutes or so of the hike was zig zag, gaining elevation, and it was so tiring! The trail was very dusty, the weather was extremely hot that day, and we were wearing winter clothes…that combination made the first half of the hike almost miserable, but the views = always worth it! Recommendation and note to self for future: wear short sleeve shirts and cotton pants along with the outwear. Otherwise, your wardrobe will forever be in winter mode.

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Extremely thankful to have had great sleep that night…and onto the next one the next day, Mount Cook!


Day 8 | A Day in Lake Tekapo

Before I get in depth for the next few posts, I just want to prelude with the fact that I did A LOT of research before we arrived to New Zealand. We didn’t magically know where to go all the time and where to see, so I mainly read up on TripAdvisor, Pinterest (yes) and fellow avid travelers’ blogs. That being said, I had a very good idea of what I wanted to see and do and how to allocate our time wisely. Though, I did not have an itinerary (for all of you that are wondering and asking if I can send you mine); we planned day by day according to weather and availability of excursions. 

We woke up early at 8am on the 19th (and I can’t even tell you which day of the week it was) to drive ~an hour and half to Lake Tekapo. There were plenty of things to do – from the hot springs to hiking to horseback riding. Our first stop was at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Of course, it was filled with tourists, but it remained so serene even with all the background noises while it sat on Lake Tekapo.

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Then, we walked around the lake, took some pictures with the selfie stick, and enjoyed extremely good weather. These are non-filtered photos!! What you see is almost as breathtaking as what we saw in person. The Lupin was already starting to bloom (apparently full bloom by April) and I wish we could’ve stayed here a bit longer!

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For lunch, we headed to the #3 ranked restaurant by TripAdvisor, Reflections Restaurant. 1) The view was one of THE best! 2) I had no idea what to order, so I just ordered all their lunch specials… It was really nice to soak up the sun while sitting outside by the lake and waiting for our food. I don’t quite remember what we ordered…except I remember the sirloin steak on top of waffle fries. THAT WAS DELICIOUS.


Then, we headed off to Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking, ranked #2 in Lake Tekapo to-do! We picked the 2-hour Mountain Top trek, that took us to the top of Mount John (perfect – we were going to hike it anyway) and downhill to the lake, and finally through the forest back to the stables. I heard plenty about it being a phenomenal view and trek, but WOW my pictures did not capture the full effect whatsoever!

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BTW all 5 of us woke up really sore the next day…also a little bit about my horse: his name is Jeff. He apparently is their ‘cheekiest’ horse…he loved eating and being distracted and he could never keep still. Everyone else’s horses were just chillin’ and mine was running around the stables before we even began. He pooped all the time on the trails and slowed me down while everybody went ahead.Thanks for being my friend for 3 hours, Jeff.

We headed home after what became a 3-hour trek, and the men cooked for us that night! Dad’s fried rice and Mr. Huang’s stir fry brussel sprouts (a close rendition of mine). Starved and exhausted, we ate and rested early for the next day: Mount Aspiring National Park!

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Day 7 | Christchurch –> Omarama

After three days in Auckland, we flew to Christchurch to spend the next 10 days in the South Island. We laanded around noon and headed straight for lunch in the city…Abalone Thai Restaurant! I ordered myself an egg wrapped Pad Thai (my second time eating it!) Oh, and the airport is also where we met up with an additional 2 members of our party: Dad’s high school best friend and his wife. We used to travel with them when I was little, so this was nothing new.


When we finished lunch and grocery shopping, we headed 194 miles southwest to Omarama, where we would be staying for the next 3 days. Since New Zealand roads are paved according to mountains, there was room for plenty of windy roads, low mph, and scenic stops.

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We arrived at our little abode around 7:30pm, and it was still bright! The boss lady welcomed us and offered us New Zealand milk and showed us to our apartment and even provided us with a rice cooker and electric wok! She showed us the way to the nearest supermarket where we could load up on groceries for dinner and breakfast.


It was exciting to shop limited options and still be able to pull off ground beef elbow pasta and brussel sprouts for dinner. That marked our first day in South Island, and I deemed it…relaxing yet productive.


Day 6 | Rotorua, New Zealand

We left Auckland dark and early in the morning at 6am to head to Rotorua, a town a 3 1/2 hour drive away to go to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. This was still Dad’s second day driving on the opposite side of the road, so the ride was a little bumpy and windy. The view was phenomenal (sunrise) along with the many sheep we saw along the way.


We arrived at Wai-O-Tapu just in time for the Lady Knox Geyser demonstration. Apparently, “Lady Knox” has nothing to do with the geyser itself…she just felt like naming it after herself. It happened (insert however long ago) when the Maori people were washing their clothes by the creek, and one of them was dumping soap in the geyser hole. Soon after, it started bubbling, and it wasn’t long before until the geyser shot up 50 meters. The park tour guide did a demonstration with a pack of ‘environmentally safe’ soap.


Afterwards, we walked to the park where there were 3 trails, color coded and separated by distance. The entire loop took about an hour and half, give or take 30 minutes for photo stops. To me, the entire place smelled like rotten eggs + burnt popcorn…not the best kitchen aroma one can give.

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I won’t walk you through all 25 spots, but I’ll walk you through some of my favorites (no filter!) 🙂

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This is stop #5, also the “Artist’s Palette” All these different colors signify a different chemical.

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Stop #21: Champagne Pool! This is everywhere all over “must-see” of New Zealand and Pinterest, and of course, we had to go! I couldn’t figure out why it was so…smoky, and it only got worse throughout the day because we came back at the end of our walk, and it was even more covered.


Devil’s Bath – this was…oddly breathtaking. The entire was a mixture of a lime green version of the corn starch we used to play with in elementary school. The picture does not do it justice! This was the last stop on our route.


Ended the day at Pig & Whistle and had the BEST seafood clam chowder I’ve had in my life. That was a great prelude to a 2 hour nap on the way home ^_^

Day 4 & 5 | Auckland, New Zealand

After three days in Tahiti, we decided to trade in paradise for a bit cooler weather. We landed in Auckland, essentially skipped 23 hours ahead and straight into a typhoon. Oh, and then there was the getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road…

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During the three days, we stayed with my mom’s college friend and her maid of honor. She and her husband picked us up met us at the airport and took us to eat Chinese noodles (yay Auckland!) before heading to One Tree Hill. To me, it was the Twin Peaks (SF) of Auckland. Sadly, the rain was already hitting and we were being blown away at the top of the mountain. Nevertheless, checked off the bucket list.


Then, we met one of Dad’s past colleagues from China, and his family invited us to eat with them in SkyCity (the sky tower in the middle of downtown). The SkyCity had a bunch of restaurants on the 1st-3rd floor and the Orbit 360 dining at the top; I particularly enjoyed stir fry lamb and the firecracker prawns. We were just making up for the lack of Asian food from Tahiti, heh.

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Afterwards, we walked on Queens St., where most of the things were ‘happening,’ but it just seemed like everything was closed by 9pm and no one was really out and about like they were supposed to be…

Our second day in Auckland was brightened by a few hours of sunshine. We woke up early to steady rain and marmite for breakfast. WOW. I don’t know that I have words to describe it…but you’re supposed to put it on toast, and it’s pretty similar to Australia’s Vegemite.


We were able to locals and do some grocery shopping with the family and have lunch at home. Before that, we went house hunting (for fun) with the family! They took us to Long Bay, where a new subdivision of houses were being built / ready to be designed. I’m a huge fan of the glass balcony stuff! Here are some pictures in case anyone feels like investing in a million dollar home in Auckland…

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Everything is measured in KG and that threw me off! The fruits and vegetables were super colorful, and the seafood/meats were extremely fresh. The lunch menu included fresh mussels, salmon sashimi, tomato and egg, and bak choy.

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By mid-afternoon, the sun was out and we headed to Devonport, the small town across the bay. The views are incredible, and the grass is lush, and the waters were so blue! The little town had a European boardwalk vibe and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon before the clouds and rain came back.

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We finished the day by having some steak, Blue Cod, and red wine at home before calling it early for a 5am wake up tomorrow for Rotorua!

Day 3 | Final Day in Tahiti + FAQ/Reflections

Our days in paradise were slightly dampened by incoming storms throughout the day, but we visited the nearby beach for the morning to round out the trip. Following the day’s recap, I’ll answer some questions I got while I was here as well as personal reflections!

9:45 am | picked up by a taxi to be taken to Plage Vaiava (aka PK18 to the locals). Unfortunately, the sky was full of clouds, so the blue waters could not be shown as clearly, but it was still beautiful nonetheless! Spent the next 2 hours or so walking around, getting a dip in, and laying underneath coconut trees.

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12:30 pm | picked up by the taxi again to be taken back to the hotel, where we cooked spaghetti and sausages for lunch. for the rest of the afternoon, parents napped as I wrote in my journal on the balcony.

3:30 pm | the family went down to the infinity pool for one last swim, and little did we know, the storm would hit in 2 hours.

5:30 pm | dad and I went out to the food truck to order some food, but the storm was at its worst! here’s to experiencing rain in tahiti…very similiar to Hawaii’s.

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6:30 pm | picked up our food and enjoyed a final tahitian dinner at home over steak, swordfish, and a tahitian-fied nutella/coconut crepe.


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and three days IS enough between two islands! We did not get to go to Bora Bora this time (which means we’ll come back!), but I’ll answer some questions below:

  • What languages do the people speak? Tahitians are fluent in Tahitian and French, since their grade school education is received in those languages. In their high school years, they can choose to add a 3rd language: either Spanish or English, which most of them pick English.
  • What’s their economy like? Agriculture and Tourism drive their economy – with a pineapple farm and a distillery on Moorea and transporation and tours for tourism. Their taxi fares are expensive, which has to do with gas prices being so high. Their groceries are way off the charts expensive with a kilo of lettuce at $8.10.
  • What do they eat? Lots of raw fish (poisson) and barbeque! We can see smoke going up nearby because people are cooking outside.
  • *Do you like Tahiti or Hawaii better? I got this question…about 4 times. For those of you who don’t know, my family used to live in Hawaii back in early 2000’s, and those of you who talk to me often know how much I miss Hawaii with all my heart. It was actually hard arriving in Tahiti at first, especially the first 24 hours or so, because everything made me think of Hawaii – the sunrise, the people, and the laidback island culture. I’ll always prefer Hawaii, because it’s always the most beautiful place on earth in my heart. Locals have described Tahiti as “Hawaii 500 years ago” and it’s evident in the architecture and economy. Of course, I recommend Tahiti! Make sure you’re ready for cooking your own meals a few times and lots of $$ for activities.


  • There are no red lights!! The islands are either one-road only or traffic is conducted with roundabout circles, which means there’s no room for road rage.
  • Pedestrians ALWAYS come first. Cars will almost always stop and let you go first.
  • People are extremely trusting here – ex. when I was buying postcards, I picked up 20, and I told the shop owner that the stack had 20. He just said okay and charged me for the amount. In America or anywhere else, they would’ve counted once or twice. Ex2. when we went to pick up the food tonight at the truck, the guy didn’t make us pay beforehand, and he just handed us the bag and said thanks, bye! Dad and I looked at him and paid him, and he was thoroughly surprised!
  • There are a ton of stray cats and dogs here – luckily for them, they’re not prone to rabies, which makes it great for animal lovers! I’ve played with the strays a few times, and we heard one can adopt them back to America since they’re pretty much disease-less.
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  • People are just so much nicer here – everyone smiles at you on the streets, the kids say hello at the beach, and taxi drivers are always ready to give recommendations and tell you about the island life.

Au revoir, Tahiti!

Day 2 | Moorea

It’s hard to believe that another day has gone by! We are catching the last two days of good weather in Tahiti as their wet season finishes up this month. Our journey begins with a 45 minute ferry across to the island of Moorea.

7:30 am | woke up after 10 hours of sleep – feeling refreshed, relaxed, and tahitian.

9:00 am | took a taxi to the ferry (about 20 minute drive) and bought our round-trip tickets $30 USD per person for today; leaving at 9:45am and returning whenever we please. The boat was super clean and huge – it reminded me of the super ferry from hongkong to macau. All the tourists sit by the windows and all the locals who commute back/forth for work sit in the middle section and nap away.

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11:00 am | arrived in Moorea and headed straight for the Lagoonarium. It’s advertised as the ‘best snorkeling in Moorea,’ so much so that it doesn’t need additional advertisements in the pamphlets they hand out on the ferry. It cost $32 USD per person, and it included mini boat ride over to the lagoons, unlimited hot chocolate/coffee, a bungalow for each party, kayaks, stingray feeding and swimming, and snorkeling. There was a boat that met us at the shack where we paid, and it couldn’t dock, so we had to walk out into the ocean to climb into the boat. That was new, and no reviews warned us about that! As the boat pulled up to the mini dock, we were greeted by the island dogs – which are up for adoption, since there are no rabies in Tahiti, and you’re supposedly able to just take them back to the US! Oh, how I wish we had luggage space, because one of them looks very similar to our dog at home.

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11:30 am | We got there just in time for the first round of stingray feeding, and it was my first time with those little guys! well. 6 girls. they’ve conditioned themselves to come by this area every 11am and 2pm because they know fish are there for them. They’re much softer than I imagined! Two of them bit Mom and Dad, testing if they were fish, but it turns out, they aren’t… I also drank a couple mouthfuls of salt water, and that sea is very salty. Very salty. Nearby, we saw sharks that come by for some food, but they’re about 2-3 feet long and very afraid of humans, yay for us!


12:00 pm | Then, we took 3 kayaks out and enjoyed the proximity of all the fish and going down the lagoon where all the bungalows are lined up. One of my to-do’s here was to kayak/water activity on the turquoise waters, and ta-da! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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1:00pm | the weather was worsening, and it looked like the clouds were thickening, so we decided to boat back and head on the 3pm ferry. There were fruit stands next to the ferry entrance, so we spent $6 USD on a bag of delicious mango, coconut bites, and a bushel of plantain.

4:00 pm | by the time we got off the ferry into downtown area, we’d decided to explore the streets a bit before heading home to cook (heh, again – if you read my first post). We learned once again that life is pretty quiet and shops are deserted in the afternoons. Many shop owners go home to nap, eat, and relax. There must be some percentage of Chinese population here, because there was an Asian market! They were selling things we could find in Chinatown Houston or even China. A lot of the signs were in English/French/Chinese in that area, and there was even an expensive Chinese restaurant with plates costing between $30-40 USD.

5:00 pm + on | back in our suite and ready for sunset as we cook some of the leftover pasta and noodles we had from yesterday for dinner. everything and everyone is extremely relaxed here and it’s apparent…because the entire family is sitting out on the balcony stargazing as I’m writing this.

The rest of our time is dampened by bad weather, but stay tuned to see how we manage!