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Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan couldn’t be more different than Gili T. Given that we had just jumped from one island to another, we had expected them to be somewhat similar, so it was exciting to see such a massive change. Gone was the party, the hectic streets and the mass of vendors; Nusa Lembongan was all about the scooters, the rural villages and the different spots to explore.

We stayed at Lembongan Hostel. Upon arriving on the island we got into a tuk-tuk which dropped everyone on the boat at their respective accommodation. We weren’t sure whether it was free or if it was part of the ferry ticket, but it sure made our journey hassle free. The hostel was clean and very well air-conditioned. The bunks were incredibly high (the kind that I hate to imagine the damage caused if you fell off the top). The showers were a bit gross, and the breakfast pretty simple, but the staff were so incredibly helpful – they were the real highlight of staying there. The hostel was down a long gravel road which had too many potholes to count.

There are a few different spots you can stay when you are at Nusa Lembongan, although it doesn’t really matter because you basically have to scooter everywhere you go anyway. Down in the village would be ideal, not only is there a good beach, but most of the bars and restaurants are down there too. On our first evening there we hired scooters (70,000 IRD per scooter) and headed to Sunset Point to, you guessed it, watch the sun set. The scenery is certainly spectacular. Not far from there is Devils Tear, which is another awesome spot to watch the sun go down. It’s also absolutely incredible at high tide; it reminds you just how powerful the ocean can be.

 

There are two spectacular day trips to be had from Nusa Lembongan and I don’t even know which one I would recommend more.

The first is doing a snorkeling trip. There are so many cool spots to snorkel at, including swimming with manta rays. This was one of the coolest things I have ever done, even though I felt the execution of the trip was nowhere near as good as it could have been. We were picked up from our hostel at about 2 pm, and taken to Mushroom Beach were we climbed aboard a pretty small boat. There were six of us snorkeling, and just the one driver (who only spoke limited English). We set off, and about half an hour later pulled into the first of our three snorkeling spots where we were told to ‘jump in’. It was my brother’s first time snorkeling, and he looked at our driver as though he was joking. Upon realizing that he was deadly serious, he questioned where the life jackets were. And understandably so. The swell was huge, and we were surrounded by sheer cliff faces that didn’t look all that pleasant to crash into (in fact, they looked deadly!). What was worst though, was that right next to where we had stopped the boat,there was a floating, bloated dead DOG. It was awful. We spent our time in the water taking ‘dog shifts’, because we wanted to stay as far away from that thing as possible. There was a stack of rubbish in the water, which was actually really sad to see, because the ocean in those parts of the word is so painstakingly beautiful, and receives next to no TLC from its people.

However, the real purpose for jumping in the water was to see the manta rays. The moments that weren’t spent watching for a certain dead dog were spend with our heads underwater, absolutely in awe of these massive creatures that were so majestically gliding about. Occasionally they’d pop up for air, and if you happened to be looking at the right spot at the right time, you could this massive animal launching itself about the surface. It was quite scary when they came close – they are so big (and quite ugly!) but they certainly lived up to their gentle giant reputation.

After our time with the mantas we headed to snorkel spots #2 and #3. Firstly we snorkeled on a coral reef, and lastly on a mangrove reserve. I was actually feeling pretty sick and contemplated sitting the last stop out, until the others jumped in and stressed just how much I was missing out on this spectacular mangrove reserve. So in I got, and man I did not regret it. The mangroves growing underwater formed a thick grassy terrain, which provided the most spectacular backdrop for some pretty interesting fish. It was definitely one of the best snorkeling sites I have ever visited.

The other day trip well worth making is one across to Nusa Penida. It is possible to stay on this island, and I daresay we would have if there was any more time. Instead we got up early and headed down to the Yellow Bridge where we negotiated our way to a return fare to Nusa Penida. The boat ride took about an hour, but felt so much quicker because the whole way we were entertained by the smallest puppy I have ever seen. Once we got to the island we hired two scooters and we were off (80,000 IRD each).

The island is actually pretty big, and so much bigger than I ever realised. From the get go we were going to be pushing to make it to all the places that we had talked about, but we decided to give it a crack anyway. Our first stop was Ahtu Beach. We headed off around the island through villages and along the coast, up and down hills; boy it was even further than we realised. We got to the top of the biggest hill yet and noted that Andy and Summer’s scooter was almost on empty. Because we were basically in the middle of nowhere, we thought we should make filling up a priority. After about half an hour I think we found what must have been the only petrol station on that side of the island. Half an hour behind schedule, we continued on.

Following the signs to Ahtu Beach we made our way onto a gravel road, which got increasingly bumpy and narrow. Summer and Andy kept suggesting we park up and walk the rest of the way but Jamie and I wanted to press on as much. Well, until we saw Summer and Andy’s scooter hit a rock and slide out sideways beneath them. Summer was a bit grazed, but the worst part was that the scooter wouldn’t start. Panic set in, and Jamie and I helped the other others drag the scooter to the side of the ride and park it. We fiddled for a bit and realised that it definitely was not about to start. Jamie and I managed to convince the others (I’m not kidding when I say it took some serious persuasion) to lock the scooters and just head along to the beach anyway. It was quite a trek down, and everyone was pretty tense. Unfortunately it made the beach trip a little less enjoyable, as the others would pretty worried about how the afternoon was going to play out. It wasn’t entirely unwarranted, given that we were literally in the middle of nowhere. The beach was beautiful to look at, but average for swimming as the undertow was full on. I thought it was far too hot not to swim; but I was the only one.

We were so incredibly thankful to get back to the scooters after the hike up the hill (it felt like forever!) and then a miracle happened when both scooters started on first attempt. We were keen to get out of there pronto and back to civilisation… just in case. We stopped at The Gallery on the way back for lunch – even though it was such a hot day the curry sounded too good to resist; it was definitely the right decision by moi!

Up next was the iconic Klung Klung beach – or more famously known as the T-Rex beach. Another long scooter ride (and in the opposite direction) saw us bouncing over many a pot hole, topping up with petrol (AGAIN) and all getting rather a lot of sun. The views at this beach were absolutely incredible. We didn’t go down to the water’s edge (it was a very long way and it looked so hard and steep that we didn’t know if we would have the energy to climb back up!) but we did manage to get some epic photos.

In the end we had to forego the waterfalls we had planned to visit, because we were just too pushed for time. If I had the option, I would probably choose to stay two nights on Nusa Penida, just to ensure a more thorough exploration of the island.

 

Canggu

Canggu

The first place we stopped off in Bali, Canggu is essentially Australian owned and Australian based. Canggu isn’t a patch on Kuta or Seminyak when it comes to drunk Australians though, and the Australian influence sure creates a good recipe for brunching options. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that with so many Australians around, good surf is inevitably not far away.

We stayed at the Lay Day Surf Hostel. For only $16/night it was pretty decent, although you could probably get somewhere cheaper if you wanted. The hostel was supposed to be a ‘party hostel’, it wasn’t at all – but our jet-lagged selves were somewhat relieved to see that it didn’t live up to its name. To describe it as ‘incredibly social’ would be entirely accurate; everyone tended to lounge around the pool area making it a fabulous way to meet new people. The facilities were decent, and the location wasn’t too bad either.

Canggu is definitely a beach town. There is one main street, with stacks of cafes, bars and shops that touch on both rustic and boutique. There are a fair few stray dogs (my least favourite part), and stacks of scooters. If you are in Canggu predominantly to surf and you stayed close to the beach, you could almost get away without even a scooter (although a scooter does allow for better exploration). Nearby is Echo Beach, which also has good surf. The beaches themselves weren’t particularly nice for swimming though, so if you don’t actually intend to surf, you really only need a couple of days here. My favourite thing about Canggu was the vibe and the food – brunching was 10/10 (you can read about it here)

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Only a short ferry ride from Auckland itself, Waiheke Island can feel like a world away. Remove the traffic, the crowds and the bustle that is the big city, and you’ll find yourself in the serenity of Waiheke Island. It’s not completely deserted though, it is far more commercialised than Rangitoto Island for instance. There is so much to do and see there, yet there is actually so little at the same time: we only had a day, which was enough – but I can see how it would be easy to spend a whole week there.

Jump aboard the boat from Auckland’s Queens Wharf, it costs $36 for a return ticket and leaves half hourly. The trip takes about 40 minutes. On arrival, it is possible to hire a car, or you can just head outside where you will quickly spot the abundance of buses. My family and I jumped on a hop-on hop-off bus which I think is a very convenient way to see the island if you only have a short period of time. The hop-on hop-off buses come every half hour to a number of stops across the island, so it is really easy to fit everything into a day.

First stop was Oneroa, which was only 5 – 10 minutes from the ferry terminal. This town was definitely the most touristy on the island. There are lots of cute cafes, boutique shops and gift shops. I was surprised at how affordable all the shops were – I certainly had an expectation that the prices would all be bumped. The beach is also right there, so everything is basically at your fingertips. Make sure you check out the Island Grocer for fresh produce and other supermarket goods (the prices here are definitely inflated) and also Hot Shot Espresso for your caffeine fix.

  

Back on the bus, this time to Ostend. This area could be described as the local hub. The industrial area is nearby (which includes home-ware shops, gardening shops and also a recycling station) and every Saturday there runs a cute wee market with arts and crafts, knick-knacks and a few food stalls. Typical me, I couldn’t go past the fudge stall without stopping, trying and eventually buying – the pineapple lump fudge is to DIE for.

 

The last main area that is worth a mention is Onetangi. A beautiful sandy beach, with clear flat waters, this is definitely one of the prime spots on Waiheke. It would be so easy to spend a week away here, and judging by the number of baches dotted about the place, I’m not the only one who thinks so. It was certainly limited for food options though; due to winter closures we literally had the choice of just the one (Charley Farley’s) – thankfully it was good.

There are stacks of wineries on the island, including Stoneyridge, Cable Bay Vineyards and Wild on Waiheke to name a few, but note in advance that a number of them shut down across winter for scheduled maintenance. Waiheke Island is a fantastic trip from Auckland. You can either glam it up and taste around the wineries, or do as we did and set out on more of an exploration of the island. Too easy!

 

Whistler, Canada

Whistler, Canada

“Walking in a winter wonderland” is the phrase that jumped to mind at the time, and it still aptly summarises my memory of the place. I ventured up to Whistler from Vancouver – on a (supposedly) 1 hour bus that went through Squamish (a place I remember all too well – a 10 minute toilet stop turned into a six hour layover as the road north was closed following a pile-up). I had been highly recommended the HI-Whistler Backpackers; home to winter Olympics athletes back in 2010.  It was gorgeous accommodation; modern, clean and cosy, and neatly balancing the social dimension with an adequate amount of privacy. It was about a 30 minute walk to the main village, but buses were much quicker than that and tended to be the more appealing option in the snow.

Whistler itself is definitely affordable on a budget, but with some very lush options if you have money to play with. There are lots of resorts, boutique shops and spas. Unfortunately I was at the other end of the spectrum, mostly window shopping and scoping out the cheap eats, with three of my favourite options being as follows:

1. El Furniture Warehouse

With everything on the menu being only $4.95, it would almost be rude not to! A decently extensive menu (with your classic range of salads, burgers, meat dishes and bar snacks), it is understandable why Furny’s is extremely popular, especially with those on a budget. Be prepared to queue if you go after about 6pm (outside unfortunately) but if you wrap up, it’s totally worth the wait. The food is good and the vibe of the place is really fun.

2. Naked Sprout 

I became a bit of a local here, as my hostel didn’t have a free breakfast and I wanted to make sure I had a decent feed before heading up the mountain. Super healthy (but still delicious) food options, there were so many tasty smoothies and juices, salad bowls and treats to grab on the go. They also had a limited seating area with good wifi if you wanted to eat in.

3. The Green Moustache

Another healthy go-to, this place offered slightly more complex options. I had a mouth-watering soup with a delicious cracker/bread for dipping. It has big open tables (quite well suited for sharing, especially if you’re there by yourself), with a super cute gift shop attached so it is extremely easy to spend a bit of time here.

 

 

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan

A tourist destination as popular as Gili Trawangan usually means one of two things: lots of incredible food (survival of the fittest and all that) and lots of tourist scams. Unsurprisingly we got both, despite our best efforts to avoid the latter. Fortunately, we stumbled onto some real crackers very early on, so we always had some great go-tos during our stay there. Of anywhere we went in Bali, Gili T was the most hit and miss. It’s absolutely worth loading up Trip Adviser if you are going somewhere new – because no-one really wants to endure a tourist scam if possible. If you have got the time, check out the following:

 The Banyan Tree. An early discovery, and located so close to our accommodation we sure made ourselves at home at The Banyan Tree. Serving a wide range of extremely healthy food, this place sure knew how to do some killer #cleaneats. Both vegetarian and vegan options were in absolute abundance, and even the most healthy unusual dishes sounded delicious. All of the seating is upstairs and you can sit inside or out. Takeaway options are available, and the staff were absolutely fantastic; extremely attentive and accommodating. I would highly recommend a stop here, and don’t forget to take your shoes off before you go inside.

 

‘Same same but different’ is how some would describe the Kayu Cafe compared to the Banyan Tree. Serving up healthy numbers from sunrise until mid-afternoon, the Kayu Cafe has a huge selection of smoothie bowls, raw treats, pastries and brunch items available and a super relaxing vibe to enjoy them in. The food is moderately priced – perhaps before expensive that what you’d find elsewhere in Bali, but still cheaper than anything you’d find at home – and definitely one of those places where you can take confidence that whatever you order will be tasty.

While on holiday there is only so much healthy food that one wants to eat, and as soon as you’re feeling like a more indulgent meal, head right over to Regina’s. One street back from the main drag lies one of the best pizzerias you may ever visit. The prices are cheap (I’d almost go as far to say half the price of a few of the places we ate at), the pizzas were massive (the four of us ordered four pizzas and ended up taking the equivalent of a whole pizza home) and the food was as authentic as what you could find in Italy. As always, full marks for great service – the Balinese way it would seem, and we left as very content customers.

Last but not least The Roast House. Sooner or later you’ll probably crave a taste of home, and when you do, head along to The Roast House for some pub-style grub. Admittedly the decor is slightly odd (kind of dark and vintage feeling) and the kitchen is across the road from the restaurant. However, the food is really tasty. Ironically, I went for the mi goreng (when in Indonesia right?) but everyone else ordered meals like sausages and mash, chicken parmigiana and fish & chips. Although the food was pretty tasty, I thought on the whole it was relatively overpriced for a sub-par meal that we’d get at home.

 

Spruce Goose

Spruce Goose

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Spruce Goose (30 Cochrane Street, Rongotai)

Located conveniently by the airport, Spruce Goose is a favourite stop for a casual bite before or after a flight. It is big, spacious and has a wide selection of food and drink. Open all day every day, you can rely on it for quick service, great views and satisfied customers. Their shoestring fries and aioli are some of the best in town, and the friendly staff make every visit a pleasurable experience. Also a bonus is the amazing views you get of the South Coast, and airplanes landing and taking off from Wellington Airport.

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CinCin

CinCin

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CinCin (156 Cuba Street)

Nestled in the heart of Cuba Street, CinCin is yet another of Wellington’s Italian gems. From the moment you walk in and are greeted by the staff (all of whom seem to be male, European and handsome) it is a very authentic experience. The place is so much bigger than it lets on; the courtyard behind the bar is massive, and incredibly quaint. The wine menu is exquisite, as is the food menu. I find it hard to go past pizza, but honestly, everything on here looks so incredibly delicious that I think I will have to force myself to order something that isn’t phte next time I go (instead of just leeching off other people’s plates). Prices are what you would expect; and quality exceeds expectations.

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Sixes and Sevens Deli

Sixes and Sevens Deli

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Sixes and Sevens Deli (51 Taranaki Street)

As a member of the gym across the road I always knew that Sixes and Sevens existed, but it wasn’t until I had their donuts at the Wellington On a Plate pop-up stand that I knew I needed to visit the cafe itself. They were the best donuts I tried, and the funky exterior of the cafe promised so much more for the inside.

I visited for lunch, and not only was the coffee bang on, but the cabinet was sensational and the donuts were again unreal. Pictured above was the plum and vanilla mascarpone donut, as well as the lemon curd and pistachio cream. The lemon and pistachio donut was single-handedly the best donut I have ever had in my life. The cabinet was full of various goodies, from salads and croissants to bliss balls and other sweet treats. It is relatively small, but the staff are super friendly which gives it a cosy vibe and a place where you could happily whittle away an afternoon. Sixes and Sevens, I will be back – and not just for donuts.

 

Burger Liquor

Burger Liquor

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Burger Liquor (129 Willis Street)

Burger Liquor always appears wildly busy from the outside, and the humming, funky vibe it suggests continues once you enter. They don’t really take bookings, so I often find myself frequenting Burger Liquor when it’s a busy weekend in Wellington and I have forgotten to book somewhere. It is hugely popular (and almost slightly overrated, in my humble opinion) and really provides an amped up American diner experience with burgers, curly fries and shakes. There are about 12 burgers on the menu, a range of snacks (include dumplings, edamame, fried chicken and jalapeno poppers – a personal fave) and variations of fries, and just as many (if not more) shakes available. It also boasts an extensive rum and bourbon range. There are two rooms extending beyond the bar (the booths are my favourite spot) and the turnover is pretty high; meaning if you are made to wait for a table you never have to wait that long. If you manage to nab a table when it’s quiet, there is a range of board games available. It’s an all round great experience, but best enjoyed when you are feeling like a hearty, relatively unhealthy and greasy meal.

Price range: The burgers are really cheap, ranging from $10 – 15. If you get fries, shake and a burger I would expect to pay between $20 – 25.

Best dish: The Bengal Tiger is a suburb vegetarian burger. I love the curly fries, jalapeno poppers, fried chicken and the Notorious P.I.G burger (pulled pork, in case you hadn’t guessed!)

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Smooth Sailor – the WOAP 2016 cocktail
Annam

Annam

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Annam (125 Featherston Street)

I have now been to this French-Vietnamese restaurant a few times, and while the food always blows my mind, I have been a little confused about the vibe and décor. It feels quite big and hollow inside, and until recently I had never been at a time when it was that busy – meaning the atmosphere felt a little flat. However, on my most recent visit there the place was packed (to the rafters, literally – there is an upstairs bit too that was full) and it really carried the vibe of the whole place. The owner is great; he speaks with this wonderful French accent that I could just listen to all day long. The menu is fresh, healthy (feeling) and extensive. This is a place that slides under most people’s radars, but is definitely one of the better spots in the Lambton area.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I rated their burger the best of the Wellington on a Plate burgers for 2016. The Boa Burger ‘De La Sauce’ was comprised of a steamed Banh bao yeast-rice cake bun, with a delicious medium-rare beef patty, pickled vegetables, red onion, roasted sesame seeds and coriander, on a bed of salad with kumara chips. It was so fresh, light, and flavoursome: 10/10.

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WOAP Burger 2016
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Duck curry, with rice and a French baguette