Lumina Borealis

This weekend is your last chance to get up to Kingston, Ontario to see the magical Lumina Borealis. 3 hours east of Toronto and 2 hours south of Ottawa is the beautiful old town of Kingston, and at the summit of Fort Henry is the exhibition.

I know I'm from southern Australia where the antarctic winds will penetrate your bones but man, that was one cold night. Goose and I registered it as the second coldest we have ever been closely behind that one day in New York. Pretty sure the temperature only got as low as -11° but when you're in rural Canada it's a completely different kind of fresh.

As you sing into the microphone the projection on the wall gets brighter! Pretty cool. Or the open fires that project more images the more people that stand around the fires.

The most popular interactivity was at the centre, throwing balls at moving targets to create a drastic movie piece at the end. The beautiful animals and creatures that follow you through the whole exhibit.

Wanaka

It was night by the time Goose and I strolled into Wanaka from Hooker Valley, completely oblivious of the various canyons, mountains, and valleys we had just crawled through. We camped at Wanaka Lake View Holiday Park for the entirety of a stay. Super convenient for its short walk into town along beautiful Lake Wanaka. The town is as you would come to expect - the only way I can describe New Zealand, beyond beautiful. The town really is the smaller Queenstown, and from what most of the locals say, you're either a Queenstown person or a Wanaka person, and rarely both. Unless of course you're a tourist such as Lion & Goose and both towns are spectacular.

Wanaka sits at the far south of the lake, overlooked by the enormous Mount Aspiring National Park, blocking the town from the Tasman Sea. That's something that is pretty consistent throughout New Zealand as well. Unlike Australia where there is almost no limit to road directions, the south island of New Zealand is fairly limited in travel. Thanks to their world class conservation and natural wonders the destinations are limited. For example if you would like to get from Glenorchy to Milford Sound it looks like it should only take an hour if that on a map, however if you look closer the road is actually a path, and an enjoyable summer walk about 2 - 3 days through Fiordland National Park. Most who choose to drive will discover the five hour one way route sooner or later.

But any path is a beautiful one through New Zealand. You can walk to most places in and around Wanaka despite the arctic conditions, or perhaps we were super lucky with the weather. We woke one morning to the most wonderful sunrise at a balmy -1°. I had this ongoing joke on my Snapchat that rush hour in New Zealand is when all the photographers rush to that perfect spot to get their winning shots, and those who arrive first usually argue less over the best spot.

Similar to what I had mentioned in Lake Tekapo, we had been lucky enough to arrive the week after a massive snow fall, and right as the leaves turned a beautiful golden yellow. And this is how much of our adventure appeared, especially on the way out of Wanaka and toward Cromwell, which if you're into fresh fruits and vegetables you'll love.

You'll want to stay in Wanaka a few days since there is so much to do. A day trip up to the Blue Pools at Mount Aspiring National Park is a must. It only takes an hour to get there but naturally there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way blowing out the travel time. For the super keen bean who lives for hiking and adventure you'll also want to do a day of Mount Roy. Beware its 5 star difficult rating to climb, I think I saw somewhere it's a six hour walk, though the views are among some of the most highly rated in the world. And of course awake to #thatwanakatree. 

Pyramids of Giza

Egypt is an incredible country. Its highs and lows will stay with you forever, and Cairo certainly has its fair share of each. Put simply, you have to see the Pyramids of Giza in your lifetime, if not for its majestic beauty, for its ancient wonders.

Goose and I spent the whole day exploring the city of Cairo, fighting the jet lag. We booked a tour we easily found on Trip Advisor which I highly recommend doing since Vietnam almost everywhere you go. The tour collected us early from our hotel post buffet breakfast - my favourite! Goose and I were staying in Downtown Cairo so the drive through central Giza can be a longish one dependant on the traffic. Of, and the traffic. Cairo and its overpopulated city has the most traffic I have ever seen. Yes, more than Ho Chi Minh. So factor in enough time.

Entry into the Pyramids is 20 pounds and here is where the tours are really great. A lot of people in Egypt are going to try and rip you off and the guides are like a super-human forcefield of deflection, on top of already amazing for direction and general knowledge.

Goose and I stopped off in the afternoon at a nearby Airbnb our friends were staying at pretty much across the road from the Pyramids. We took a few sneaky snaps when we heard how much our friends loved the Airbnb. Goose and I were reluctant to Airbnb having read about a plethora of bad experiences, but this one is legit. Here's what he reviewed.

"We stayed at the Magical House for 3 nights and I have to say it was the best time of my life! This place is perfectly located next to the pyramids and in a vibrant and welcoming community. Our hosts really took care of us, from organising food to taking us on tours to the museum and twice horse riding! This place exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it it anyone looking to experience Egypt."

And then the most magical part of the entire day came when the hosts of the Airbnb also took us all on a horse riding tour through the streets of Cairo to the back of the Pyramids of Giza for sunset. We were running a little late as the tour took about 30 - 40 minutes to ride around but it is officially saved under, "Most incredible sunset moments of my life: vol 4."

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Dundas Peak

Without owning a car the opportunities to travel around the province are few and far between, so when someone offers we rarely say no. Rach and I cannot go long without getting some sort of travel in and so these days are a must. Lucky for us Rach's good friend Carol was in the mood for being a guide so we took a 90 minute drive east to Hamilton. We picked that time of year where everything is soon to be beautifully covered in snow, but for now it is simply dead. It casts some pretty dark, burnt auburn tones.

But I'm gearing up for Chicago soon so winter travel in all conditions is a must! I do love the earthy tones this time of year produces. It also helps keep tourist numbers down making scenic shots opportunistic as they are clear.

The first stop was Webster's Falls in Dundas, hiking time an underwhelming 45 seconds from the carpark. If journey is the biggest part of the fun than this one is not for you. Though the falls themselves are beautiful and full of life, the surroundings are stale, entirely fenced off for someone's protection.

Dundas Peak trail is much more in my favour. Still not overly hike-worthy, the trail is about fifteen to twenty minutes from the carpark to the peak. You can see it on the drive up the hill. Tew Falls is the first immediate stop, well worth it. The force of water was limited, but the eroded structure carved out into the cliff is beautiful!

A cheeky little self shot for those of you who made it this far through the journal.

Queenstown

Queenstown; the single most beautiful town I've visited. Surrounded by mountains - namely the famous Remarkables. And the view from Ben Lomond. The title image is actually four portrait images I photoshopped together to make a panoramic landscape.

Thought I might throw in this cheeky shot of Goose enjoying the view of the Remarkables in the distance.

Maya Bay

If the planet has a distant tropical corner of the earth than Maya Bay is surely it. Traditionally known as Ko Phi Phi Le but really, what in the south of Thailand resembles tradition anymore. Maya Bay is surely tourist heavy, especially in peak season February through to September. Lucky I was there in October, during the wet season, when there are still ample tourists though traveling out to Ko Phi Phi Le is not too bad and you can easily score some shots with no one in them.

Don't worry about booking in advance from Phi Phi Island. There are so many opportunities to get there, even alone by walking to the pharmacy on the island which I had to do many times when I got the sickest I had ever been, but that's a story for another time. Goose and I simply paid some guys to take us and they were great. Spoke no english and our communication signals were still enough. We must have paid something like $40 each? Some places charge a lot more.

The bay itself is quite nice. The lime stone rocks protruding out of the coral water are stunning. We showed up in the afternoon around 4pm. It was so overcast, you can imagine how sad I was, but by 6pm, and by some miracle, the sun started to set through the clouds in the distance and the coral lit up this incredible aqua colour. The red hues beamed off the rocks in true Thailand fashion. Thailand does not disappoint in sunsets. Another one of those unexpected sunset moments. It's never over until the night comes.

Royal Ontario Museum

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Everyone has those subjects they wished they'd payed attention to in high school and for me, while I could have spared some piece of mind for almost all subjects, history is the one I value the most in hindsight. My appreciation for history and museums flourished in Berlin, 2012. I believe I was at some sort of German history museum; I was so impressed with their ability to snapshot the country's entire civilisation from start to finish, as if it were something out of Civilisation. The exponential flow of modernity.

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This is what I take with me into every museum. I really want to know how far back it all started. The Royal Ontario Museum is a spectacularly designed building from the ground up. I'll come back to more about the design later. The inside is nothing flash. Wonder if it's cause there's no flash.

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Canadian history reminds me of Australian history. There are indigenous colonies in existence for thousands of years though there is little information about them, or rather not a huge amount of detail. At least not as much as when the English and European settlements show up to destroy. I'm unsure if it's neglect or lack of resources but it's interesting all the same.

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Neo Coffee Bar

I could compile a list of things I desperately miss about Melbourne and in fact I likely will, but I can surely cross excellent coffee off of that list. In my understated determination to find good coffee in Toronto Neo Coffee Bar has answered. The establishment is another perfect example of the 'look closer' mentality I've had to adopt since I landed two months ago. Most condo architecture in this city lacks interest and the result is retail outlets, cafes, and restaurants need to make do with the surroundings they have been given and Neo is a perfect example of this. Incredible coffee, horrific bricks & mortar. And that is why this venue is just so damn incredible.

The furnishings beautifully border Japanese and Danish inspired timbers fencing its surroundings in lovely symmetry, matching the typography in the centre of the store. The props are really nice to have as well. Little Bonsai plants lay throughout the cafe like little gems waiting to be discovered. The two styles of coffee machinery are highlighted front and centre as well. Pour over to your left, espresso to the right. Both equally hypnotising watching the baristas create art.

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And of course the coffee is spectacular. They were also cooking (figuratively cooking) matcha which I hear is going nuts at the moment. Neo reckons they do as much now as they do espresso hence some days their signage is changed to Neo Matcha Bar.

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Niagara Falls

You know the scene in 500 Days of Summer where Tom's expectation and reality live side by side - that was this guy for one sunny Ontario afternoon. I had envisioned Niagara Falls a majestic landscape that driving four hours and hiking two hours to somewhere remote would play out - well, that is how every Australian I've spoken with (myself included) imagines the waterfalls of Niagara Falls. So you can imagine my surprise/reality when I was sitting at Niagara Falls Brewery ready to check it out.

Actually my suspicions were raised when I first looked at where Niagara Falls was on a map. In a town. That borders the United States. Buffalo the other side. Perhaps this was a landing zone and the day tour would take you out by boat, similar to my experiences in Thailand. The drive from Toronto was an easy one. Having said that once you've driven up & down Australia anything is easy. It's not a particularly interesting drive. Ontario in this region is pretty much flat. There are a few cool bridges to drive over on the way though. Noticeably traffic that I'm becoming accustomed to.

So Niagara Falls the town; I'm going to call it for what it is. I kind of imagine the arse end of Las Vegas would look similar. The town is theme parks and casinos, and tourists. And pretty much nothing else. But you have to go because the waterfalls are really amazing! I was Googling the falls for a few days before that and thought they didn't look very big or impressive and I was wrong about that. A $20 ticket will get you a wet boat ride I didn't bother with. Similarly you can go down to the base on the Canada side but again it's just lad and wet. But the force is incredible. And for those American's I was looking at on the other side, I never crossed the border but I can't imagine the view being better from that side.

CN Tower

I was skeptical of the CN Tower before moving to Toronto. In various landscape images it appears as an icon I found hard to emotionally connect with. All of it - the whole thing - completely changed the day I landed. We had an apartment on King St W with a perfect view, an image burned into my brain. This is the image I took from my iPhone 6.

The whole scene was majestical. The snow, the clear blue sky, the white haze over the city. And towering above it all the 553 metres 70s archetype designed concrete spiral stood strong. The 7th tallest free standing structure in the world. No. 1 of its time. And of course the 360º views.

Williamsburg, New York City

Gentrification really divides me by process of ownership through heritage by original inhabitance verses rejuvenation through beautiful design and incredible ideas. I suppose the latter can be shortened to something as simple as progress. Williamsburg is a weird / not weird combination of the two. It's that really typical neighbourhood where the bohemian or hipster or student or poor but been there all their life or creative suit or soon to be in the 1% live and breath. Being Melbourne-born I was drawn to this intriguing fusion where incredible coffee created by Australian's (naturally) resides. The beautiful refurbishments of architecture. Or that most of the inhabitants are my age. It's what Fitzroy is to Melbourne, what Queen St W is to Toronto, and what; well Brooklyn is to New York City.

Starting your day is an easy decision. Toby's Estate is really a no-brainer. Also owned by Australian's in the area is Blue Bottle Espresso, notably located as well at the Rockefeller Centre. I was in the area thanks to a friend who spends his time at a lovely spot called Sweetleaf by Kent & N 6th. Like the entire of North America a very good, substantial breakfast is, for whatever reason and much to my disappointment, absurdly hard to come by. Toby's Estate does well to make up for it. Coffee is exceptional. The store appears cluttered on the walls though they do well with the space. And I really do appreciate the "No laptops" table for all the connoisseur's who be taking up valuable space with their single latte order over four hours any given day. 

The shopping in Williamsburg is quite highly rated as well though bring your credit card because similarly to the Manhattan neighbourhood lets just say, shit is expensive. I had to stop by Beautiful Dreamers on Wythe and S 1st. Although as a male blogger there is nothing but candles for me it's one of the most beautifully laid out stores I've been to. Goose enjoyed it though left the credit card at home - whoops, damn.

As you scroll the streets and blocks be sure to stop by Brooklyn Denim Co among other excellent independent clothing store chains. I refuse to mention chains on this website but one that I actually don't mind is American Apparel - also in the area. The other most talked about place in Williamsburg is Mast Brothers Chocolate. Absolutely stop by even if you don't like chocolate like myself. I do, but I'm 98% savoury. This minimalistic warehouse inspired space is elegantly thought out. Enormous bags of cocoa line the floor in various sections of the world. And the final product is beautifully displayed in its hero space. The hot chocolate is the shit. Goose also indulged in a cookie which was crazy sweet and for whatever reason really salty as well. I would argue too salty. Worth a try but that shit is rich. Being the unashamed beer lover I am I treated myself to a savoury sparkling salty chocolate beverage. Another great experience that I probably don't need to try again. Avoid Mast Brothers on a Saturday because no one likes a line, although I have to say throughout the week the stores popularity rolls in peaks and troughs.

And finally the icing that reminds you why traveling is the single greatest thing you will ever do second to none. Phoenix Mars, the same Australian counterpart I mentioned earlier, had the advice to skip the ferry tours and just catch the East River ferry. It has all the same great attraction minus the man telling you what to photograph and the price tag. Head south toward the Brooklyn Bridge around 5pm in time for the sunset behind the financial district. Brooklyn Bridge Park is lovely to walk around, but beyond this the shots of New York City are some of the best. It was 1º standing on the pier and I legit nearly got frostbite on my face but I'd do it again.

We finished with dinner at arguably one of the best Ramen shops in the world, Yuji Ramen. While waiting for a table grab a beer and a cut at Blind Barber pub next door and they'll call you over. It may have been the 'no tipping policy' but I really loved it there. Once full of tasty Ramen head north for drinks at Five Leaves, bordering Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Or even train if you're really stuffed. If you're lucky enough to get a table in the winter you should too because it is the most wonderful of wonderful places in New York City. Perfect for a first date (good luck to the couple next to us) or even a relaxing Friday after work drinks.

Frank & Oak

There’s something about one-stop venues that I love. I was strolling down Queen St W amidst the snow the day I landed in Toronto and Frank & Oak was the first store I stepped into. The store layout is beautiful. Dark timber lines the floors and shelving with splashes of marble placed at all counterpoints, and there a few around to explore. The store is split into three categories all under the same hood. The front is dedicated coffee and hospitality space which is currently closed for renovations, so I’m imagining it to be the best coffee currently in Toronto. White walls with white (and occasional black) tiles and marble consume the front. Its beauty is inspiring. The kind of space to set you up for a fulfilling day.

The latter half of the store is the real kicker. A near identical design to the cafe front, the barber shop at the back adds the nicest of touch. You may notice the products they use on you during your appointment are sold by the counter area.

I think what I love most is the idea and the empowerment Frank & Oak offers. It is a beautifully inspiring man-space. While few other places offer a morning coffee, cut, and apparel, it’s their delivery that is so appealing. The themes of all three sections vary slightly while maintaining terrific consistency. All three themes at Frank & Oak are interchangeable. You’re there to get your haircut - why not have a coffee while you wait? Take a look at some shoes. Need a new shirt? It will look great with your new cut. The store is saying to every man, “reward yourself, you’ve earned it.”

735 Queen St W.
M6J 1G1 Toronto

Alcove Library Hotel - Vietnam

The Alcove Library Hotel is exceptional to say the least. Goose and I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon around 9pm, out of the airport by 9.30pm. We were picked up by hotel staff who positioned himself clearly at the airport as you walk out. The city is crazy busy, with something like eight million people in a 2,000 square kilometre radius. Unavoidably distinguishable to foreigners such as Goose and I is the traffic density, which respectively may seem like an unorthodox topic of conversation, is borderline a spectacle. Our airport pickup driver offered some great advice on the way through Ho Chi Minh City to the Alcove Library Hotel, specifically regarding people on motorbikes who want to steal your bags, iPhones, and cameras as they swiftly glide passed you. I didn't myself experience this unfortunate instance that I've heard so much about, but let's just say day one my bag and camera were attached to me like a straight jacket. In hindsight now it was somewhat unnecessary and I learned to loosen up, however I would recommend an informed and educated decision.

The Alcove Library Hotel is as you would imagine and may already know by now, incredibly beautiful and unique to Ho Chi Minh City. It explores early 20th century French architecture in the lobby and front area, as well as the restaurant Bookmark on the top floor. There are a wealth of fiction and nonfiction books to choose from, most are quite popular and well known texts. I love the polished tile floors accompanied by high ceiling and beautiful colour palette. The front windows are enormous and blow enough light into the room in any weather condition. It really is a divine feature to a unique independent establishment.

Okay, so the important stuff. The beds are clean and exceptionally comfortable. Complimentary water. What I imagine is cable tv so I was watching a lot of HBO in bed. Bathroom is beautiful. The staff were wonderful. Very friendly. Very helpful. We tried to make our own way into the city on the first day and they doorman said, no I'll order a taxi for you. He let us know that the Mai Linh taxi company he ordered is the most trusted in Ho Chi Minh City, or rather, least likely to rip you off, and if you're out and about in the city that this was the taxi company to get. Taxi's in Vietnam are so cheap though it's really hard to tell when you're getting ripped off.

Finally, the restaurant upstairs, Bookmark, has a great choice of beers and drinks, as well western and eastern food options. We found we were happiest when we were out on the balcony watching the sunset with a drink. In fact, one night Goose and I drank them out of all their draft beer. It was that good? The only real area of opportunity is that there is no view from the room we were staying at, but in hindsight the surrounding neighbourhoods of Ho Chi Minh City don't really have much to look at. But really that's it. Should I ever come back to Ho Chi Minh City I would stay at the Alcove Library Hotel without question.

Harajuku

It’s not much of a culture shock, nor is it particularly ground breaking as far as creativity goes, but Harajuku still remains my favourite part of Japan. While Tokyo is unbreakably traditional Harajuku is just that little bit eccentric. The roads are paved with “designer” brands such as Gucci, Zara, and Apple, and while seemingly uninspiring it’s the burroughs that are the key. Perhaps because it reminds me of the way Melbourne has something to show for on a street level, but its brilliance is stashed in allies and cracks in the walls. Everyone who comes to Harajuku is smiling and having a great time, mostly astonishing given the volume of pedestrians everywhere - EVERYWHERE.

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Goose and I exited Harajuku like horses out of the gates, only, imagine there are horses everywhere rushing out, and in all directions. We were immediately confronted with Takeshita Dori facing east. The top of the street dipping like a bowl into a swarm of pedestrians. It actually wouldn't have been so bad had it not been for the 35° temperatures that surrounded us. The strip is narrow enough that it allowed the air conditioning from inside the shops to protrude the pavement. While not much appealed Goose could not decide between lama or cat socks.

We continued on through the main streets of Harajuku, down Jingūmae. The streets here are maze-like, weaving in and out of each other. Like much of Harajuku and Shibuya it’s a festival around here. People are active, and happy to be here in summer. There was promotional activities for a sunglasses company allowing people to swing a baseball bat to a punching bag with their product attached. Smash them and get a free pair, so you get an idea of what the neighbourhood is like.

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There are several exception stores around the area for food and beverages. A lack of coffee culture before midday is hard to come by so you can imagine my excitement when Goose and I stumbled upon The Roastery by Nozy Coffee. While not entirely hidden this incredible coffee roastery house is not exactly screaming come find me. Currently hidden to any iOS maps and most mobile hospitality applications unless you dig deep into Pinterest. Other cafes would be easier to locate, such as Omotesando Koffee, also strongly worth a visit. The brilliance behind the roastery is their attention to customer service and detail to the coffee experience. A next level cafe clearly outlining the cycle of beans from plantation to roastery, to consumables. It kind of brings to light why coffee in Japan is more of an afternoon and evening delicacy rather than the hit of energy westerner’s like myself usually feel entitled to

But it would be rather absurd to come to Harajuku simply for the shopping district that it is. Once full of coffee and sweets Meiji Jingu is an exciting ten minute walk back through Jingūmae and Omotesando, the entrance visible from the south side of Harajuku Station. The Torii gates at Yoyogi are among some of the most beautiful in Japan. The westerly afternoon sun light creeps through the tree leaves to the left shining onto the beautiful structure. A path through this wonderful park leads by historical artefacts, and yes I do classify whiskey barrels as artefacts. They are after all a very important part of the history of any great nation. But honestly, the sake barrels are beautiful.

Having just cleansed ourselves and payed our respects we entered Meiji Jingu late in the afternoon, far later than the closing times indicated from memory. It is so peaceful. There are people everywhere and yet everyone is so calm. I seem to recall a man trying to get a shot of the temple with no tourists in it, taking him a good twenty minutes or so. He was getting so frustrated, meanwhile I was getting frustrated with him and his ridiculously bright pink polo that was ruining all of my shots. But I digress, it’s hard to remain angry in a place as beautiful as this one. And also I did manage to get a shot with no tourists. It’s easier said than done given there are signs everywhere saying do not take close up photos of this temple, and so I stood back from the guard. Goose was meanwhile writing a prayer to attach to the thousands of other prayers that hang from the tree inside the temple. A Piece of tranquility, enough to forget the chaos that is going on around you.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku Station is beyond enormous. It is the world’s busiest station. Every time Goose and I jumped onto a platform we’d find ourselves in a completely different, unknown part of the train station to the last. It gets harder too because the Lumine and Keio shopping complexes morph either side of the already enormous building. A good indication that you’re not actually exiting the station but entering Lumine is the sudden refreshment of climate. The shopping centre’s both have superior airconditioning to that of Shinjuku Station. They too have exits into the world but will increase confusion ten fold.

The district is made up of two sections really, west and east of the main station. Shinjuku Subway exits westerly while the JR exits mostly in an easterly direction. Sense of direction can be somewhat manageable if you can locate the Shinjuku skyscrapers. If you’re close you’ve exited to the west. If you can still see them but you think they may be a bit of a walk you’re on the east side of the station

I enjoyed west Shinjuku more for its clearer layout and sense of controlled chaos. East is mostly just chaos with people everywhere. Tokyo has no problem making you feel small. West from the station the first 4 small blocks of city are full of delicious restaurants, bars, and entertainment spaces. Goose and I ate ramen which was delicious! After being handed our own personal english menus the waitress kindly informed us to place an order patrons go up to the machine booth at the entrance, enter your yen and punch in what you would like to order. Sometimes you may too be confused with systems like this but there are always people around to help. There are also some nice, very small bars in the area. Mind you, you should probably start getting used to small places.

The next three major city blocks that follow are quite large, consisting of Shinjuku’s main office buildings. Goose and I watched thousands of business men all in their white short sleeve shirts, no tie, black pants, and black leather bags marched their ways into their respective office buildings. Four reasons to venture this far. First, it had a place for “breakfast” called Paul Bassett. You won’t find western breakfast in Japan. You just won’t. You might, but really, you won’t. They had coffee, and the also did sweet breakfast dishes. No bacon much to my devastation. Secondly, Mōdo Gakuen Kokūn Tawā is a beautifully designedarchitectural structure that has to be photographed! Lion highly rates its Instagram worthiness. The next must visit place is Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building predominantly because it offers epic Tokyo city views at no cost. A rare treat. You also have the option of north and south tower, both really wonderful views. And to finish I rate the Park Hyatt Hotel and New York Bar as a must do if you can afford the yen. Goose and I watched the sunset from the bar. Skipping the experience is a mistake

Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fiords dwarf over all that are passing by, demonstrating their strength and beauty. If someone told you they have been their for 300 million years you'd easily believe them. They're prehistoric - carved from glacier of the cooler periods of our planet. 

There's literally only single road in and out of Fiordland National Park. The rest is only achievable by walking, or helicopter if you remembered to bring your credit card. I was walking through Te Anau talking to some of the locals who were all getting ready to close their shops for the winter and around six months of closure in total. They said the tourism drops off and so most people head to North Queensland for some sunshine. I would have thought this would have been the best time of year to come down. Right as the snow is creeping its way down all of the mountains.

If you've made it this far through New Zealand (evening if it's only from Queenstown) than I need not tell you how picturesque the landscape is. You would have worked that out long ago. The reason it takes most people forever to get from one end to the other is purely to stop and take so many photos. I think I took around 3,000 over 10 days? Not annoying to sort out at all. You might even be aware that most travel blogger's you read about will often pass through New Zealand and decide to stay. I might be one, one day.

Lake Tekapo

Goose and I ventured two and a half hours from Christchurch to arrive at Lake Tekapo in the late afternoon. The week prior to us arriving it had been snowing for a few days which in the middle of April is highly unlikely though stranger things have happened, and by the time we showed up the bad weather completely cleared up the entire time we traveled. The is so fresh and so clean, and the lake is so still you feel as if you are constantly looking at a landscape painting with the surroundings mountains never ending.

Lake Tekapo is, as you would imagine, beyond beautiful. Goose and I arrived in the middle of autumn which allowed for the leaves to show off their brilliant shades of bright reds, oranges, and yellows, combined with the picturesque snow capped mountains in the back drop. But to top it off - the cherry on the cake - the bread winner, Lake Tekapo is the most incredible blue, glistening as a result of melting glaciers from its surroundings. Indeed it is ideal to have as little cloud cover as possible but as the sun sets the entire land as lit up. The clouds, the mountains, and the lake all take on the same hues so each entity can emphasise the other.

We continued further around the lake as recommended by the locals to the top of Mount John and its famous observatory for night watching of which is very popular in Tekapo. The road to the top is steep and the curves are frequent. I managed to make it up in a camper van that I doubted at a few moments. On the way to the top there are plenty of places to get a shot in too.

At the top of Mount John is a stunning 360° view of what seems like the entire South Island of New Zealand. Lake Tekapo looks stunning too, as well as the surroundings mountains and rolling hills. This area is tourist heavy, as is most of Lake Tekapo, particularly at the Church of the Good Shepard. The star gazing looked really interesting but I had had such little sleep on the flight coming over and in the previous 36 hours and so I couldn't bring myself to stay up until 11pm that night to partake. 

The Apostles - Part II

This is not the first time I had been to the Apostles either. I first came here exactly one year ago with Goose on our first big trip together around western Victoria. I actually wrote about that as well, my first post as Lion + Goose. I said I hated water and the ocean, and in hindsight what a difference a year can make. In my part one of the Apostles I finished by talking about the richness and beauty of what it meant to be by the ocean, as the sun was setting and the sea level was roaring, and the mist covered the entire beach. You could see fog ascending upward on the cliffs and onto the land, as if the Southern Ocean had extended its arm out reaching for the tourists and innocent bystanders in hope of collecting them and sucking them into the water never to be seen again.

But it doesn't collect you and this is what I saw in Goose who was standing facing outward into the horizon. Occasionally the water would collect her knees and then give up. You cannot win here. You swim you die. To swim here would be about as free as your next impending doom. But you are nonetheless free to all the same. Goose fought back the urge and we walked together along the beach to the Apostles. I may have banged on about this in my post at Hamilton Island but I love mountains that rise up out of the ocean. I love mountains, the ocean, and twilight. And this is the fundamental part of traveling, journalism, and photography, that is completely changes you and your perception of life. You are constantly pushing yourself further, constantly learning of new opportunities, always discovering and exploring more. It never ends and always gets better with each journey. This is the part of time and life that gets me and I'm a master of being existential as fuck.

In summery, time is an intense topic for me, and one that I've spent the last year since my last journey to the Apostles thinking a lot about. Maybe the way the rocks rise up out of the ocean and bare all, the eroded walls for everyone to see and let know the millions of years they've been on the planet before people arrived. Maybe that brought it out of me? I don't recall ever being so concerned about time and life before I was here, and now I want to see the world and worry I'll have to pack it all into this very small, very short can of sardines. If you or someone you know is traveling to Melbourne I think you should recommend them Lion + Goose if not for the wealth of information, than for the inspiration to travel Victoria. I was with a group of friends when I came by the Apostles who knew it would be a long drive there and back, but still took my advice on leaving in the late afternoon regardless. I came here and I never looked back at my old life. I only know how to look forward.

Hamilton Island

I think a lot about memories. Not specific memories in particular, although I do have an obsessive compulsive impulse to document as much of my life as possible, but the idea of memories and weighing important, happy, and impactful memories against memories that aren't in the least bit important but you remember them anyway. I have a love hate relationship with trying to remember dreams and the implications of the more you attempt to remember a dream the more the dream fades away from your memory. I love the idea that the more you want something the more it fades away, though I hate that in reality the memory of the dream fades away.

I believe this is what fuels my creative mind to document. It brings to me the more important questions of life, of which I am stuck in an infinite loop of. Did I do enough today? Have I made the correct decision to spend my day writing, or should I have invested more energy in connecting with people? And of course, am I really leading myself in the right direction. 

I can't remember why I wanted to visit the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island, or the Great Barrier Reef. I recall in the final quarter of 2014 Goose and I wanted to get tropical. Goose and I tossed up Fiji, New Caledonia, the Oceanic and Pacific region for travel destinations, but landed on the Whitsundays when some more than affordable flights came to my attention. We didn't really hesitate either. The winter had been pretty long and cold in the south east of Australia, and after traveling to Tasmania, as well as the snow and around Victoria, the cold was well and truly behind us.

Direct flights to Hamilton Island Airport operate out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns which may seem a barrier to others elsewhere, and an added expense. I think particular in this post it is important to highlight added expenses where in any other post I haven't mentioned costs. Believe it or not this part of the world is crazy expensive, and everything has its own added expense. Not just Hamilton Island but the whole Oceanic region. The area is tourist heavy between Queensland and Hawaii, and you want to approach the area with a sort of, 'money is but an object and has no importance'. Fundamentally, if you cut corners on your trip you only sell yourself short. No one else. I would also like to add that to have traveled all that way to not do all the whole tour is outright stupid which leads me to good stuff!

Do the Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet day tour, do the Great Barrier Reef tour, and also do as much ocean activity as possible. Lets look at that.

I booked the ten-something story hotel on Hamilton Island because it was the cheapest and this is pretty much the only time that is allowed, because really the starting value for accommodation is $250 a night in the low season. The next level up is something like, $600 - $700 a night, and then there is the out of this world, celebrity staying resorts at a value of at least $1,200. The apartments Goose and I stayed in were really nice, literally a stone throw to the beach. A complimentary tour bus takes you from the airport when you arrive. The whole island is coordinated to perfection - with years of tweaking. Spend a little bit more a night to get the ocean view, because the cheaper apartments early look at the gardens and people swimming in the pools.

110% you are best off buying food from the general store and cooking for the entirety of your stay. Ours was five days. We also bought alcohol from the bottle shop but bare in mind these prices are still really expensive to what you would expect in the city. Cheaper against the alternative of going out for dinner every night. There are a heap of things to do on Hamilton Island and most conceivably at the top of the list is swimming in the ocean and laying on the beach. Because Goose and I technically went in the wet season, it also happens to still be summer and very hot / humid.

At this point I would really like to point something out about the weather because I think it is important. From about the end of April through to January the weather in Northern Queensland is sun and clear skies every day. As in every day. So when the wet season (also known as the low season) roles around, which happens to be when Goose and I traveled, we noticed a few discrepancies from what we're used to and what we expected, baring in mind we come from a city that rains for most of the year. A weather forecast may imply a lot of cloud, maybe some rain, usually thunder storms on most days. This was to my disappointment, however, the weather changes its mind every ten minutes this time of year, and so if a day suggests it's going to rain it translates to, 'there is the smallest probability of rain probably not might be cloudy might not be could be a good chance of thunderstorms probably won't happen there will be torrential rain no the sky is completely clear'.

What I'm saying is that in comparison of where we're from the weather was sunny for the entirety of our stay as you can see in the photos. I believe the weather is in comparison to the rest of the year when it is nothing but clear skies but I digress.

If you're not in the water you must cuddle a koala. About the most cutest thing I've ever cuddled, of course except Goose. This comes with an all you can eat buffet starting at 7am. For two people this cost around $116 and lasted about an hour all up because we rocked up at 8am. The cuddle is at 9am. Cuddling the koala much to Goose's disappointment lasted about 10 seconds that she and I actually got to hold it. Extremely disappointing.

By 9am it's damn hot so we were back in the ocean. There's a section of the main beach where you can hire paddle boards to stand on out at sea, as well as snorkelling, and even sailing. We did all of them and I must say not only am I a professional long boarder now but I think I may have to take up surfing full time. Luckily the water is about 28 degrees unlike Victoria's 5 degrees. The magical experience of the Whitsunday Islands was the following days.

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