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Pictures from World Travel Log

World Travel Log

Follow James and Jay on a trip around the world.

Dec '09

Bali is awesome!

Bali has definitely lived up to it’s reputation as an amazing island.

Pictures:   Jay’s Bali Picasa Gallery.

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Dec '09

I took the pictures of Egypt for you….


This is a somewhat difficult comment to write, but Egypt was a huge disappointment. Like most people, a life goal is to see the great grand Pyramids.   Egypt was overrun by multiple nations for hundreds of years.  Some of the best treasures were stolen, er borrowed.  The ancient civillization we learned about in school is entirely gone. Continue reading "I took the pictures of Egypt for you…." »

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Dec '09

Map of the trip

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Working on an seperate page with an Overview of the Trip.  The first 3 weeks are in New Zealand, starting and ending in Auckland.  Each stop after that is for 2-5 days.

New Zealand -> Sydney -> Bali -> Tokyo -> Bangkok -> Cairo -> London -> Budapest -> Dublin.

Jay’s birthday will be celebrated in New Zealand (July 21st) and James’s will be in Dulbin (August 26th).

Dec '09

New Zealand Itinerary Posted

The first 3 weeks of the trip will be spent in New Zealand.  The flight out of Austin leaves on July 2nd, and lands in Auckland the morning of July 4th.  We decided not to plan the entire trip for New Zealand yet.   The current plan is to spend 2/3rds of the time on the North island with the rest on the South Island.  On the left of this page is a link to the Itinerary, hosted by Google Docs.  It contains all of the accomodations and activity information, and will be updated real-time.  (As of this post, the first week of planning is almost done.)

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Dec '09

Adventures in Queenstown

Anyone that talks about Queenstown brings up three different activities: Bungy Jumping, Skydiving, and Skiing. Unlike most people, Skydiving does not really scare me. Of course I say this before I have actually gone. While I do not doubt diving over New Zealand’s Southern Alps would be amazing, we just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. There was enough time for Bungy Jumping and Skiing.

We arrived on Wednesday night, but booked bungy for Thursday afternoon and Skiing all day Friday. The hostel we were staying at was booked for the weekend, like almost everything else in town, so we didn’t get a private room. Sleeping in a dorm with 5 other people was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Of course, after skiing for an entire day I was sleeping like a rock in no time.

Bungy Jumping

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IMG 0537Queenstown is home of the World’s First Bungy Site, operated by the international company, A.J. Hackett. In addition to the Kawarau Bridge, there are two other sites in Queenstown with the highest being about 150meters high, each over a canyon. My first preference was that site, but only 1 spot was available and I finally got Jay to agree to jump. Since we couldn’t do a canyon jump, we decided the bridge would make for better pictures AND it was the first site ever! The company operating the 43meter high bridge, has never had a major injury. That is pretty impressive considering each day they do between 80 and 100 jumps in the winter, and over 150 jumps in the summer!

While getting strapped in, I told myself I would not hesitate. It wasn’t until I got on the ledge that being scared set in. The girl that went before me made the process look pretty easy. Get strapped in, walked to the ledge, and jump. After you are done, you get lowered into a raft which takes you to shore. The straps were not quite what I expected. I thought my feet would go into a special harness. Instead, I wore a waist harness, while the bungy rope was literally wrapped around my ankles. Wrapped very tightly.

IMG 0530Holding to what I said I would do, I jumped immediately after the 3-2-1 count down. The moment my feet left the ledge I asked myself, “what the hell am I doing?!” The freefall only lasted for about 2 seconds, which was just enough time to realize what was happening. After that, I just swung around until being lowered onto the raft. The video and pictures make it look like I almost touched the water. If I had to guess, I was probably at least 10 feet from the water. On such a cold day, I did not want to get wet!

Minus 5

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Bungy jumping definitely got my heart going, so I was ready to calm it down some. So we headed to a bar called Minus 5. There are several in New Zealand. The entire bar is inside of a cold room, kept slightly below zero (celcuis). The walls, chairs, bar, and even the glasses are all made out of ice. Being this cold, you are only permitted to stay in the room for 30 minutes. There is a reservation process to schedule your time. The ticket price includes one or two vodka based cocktails. Minus 5 claims they only serve vodka since it is the only liquor that doesn’t freeze at these temperatures, but I suspect Absolute arranged an exclusive deal.

In any event, it was pretty cool. One of those places that you go once, but not really much of a reason to visit a second time.


The first winter I lived in Colorado, my “roommate” injured her ankle. The doctor she visited suggested no ski or snow boarding for the season, so neither of us went. During the 2nd winter, I was so focused on moving back to Austin and traveling so much, I was never in town for a ski weekend. After growing up in the snow and living less than an hour away from some of the best resorts in the world, I still never learned to ski.

Which actually works out, because I learned to Ski or Coronet Peak in New Zealand, from Mathiu. Mathiu was an Italian ski instructor that would come to NZ for their winter and say in Italy for his. The group I was in was an interesting bunch. A couple of Australians, fellow New Zealanders, and all thought skiing was the scariest thing ever.

It took me most of the morning to get comfortable. The pace we were moving at was too slow for me. In the afternoon, we got to do runs on our own. By the time the day was over, I had finally go the hang of it. Go figure.

Last Night There

With a couple of action packed day, we spent the time in dorm rooms and headed to Franz Josef in the morning.

Dec '09

Two Days in Bangkok

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Arriving at midnight in the Bangkok airport made it easy to get through Immigration, find a cab, and get to the hotel. After being in Bangkok, I have a feeling the Bali experience would have been different if we stayed in a large city like Jakarta. While Bangkok certainly has its 3rd-world moments, it really is a 2nd-world location.

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The Mohawked Taxi driver dropped us off at what looked like an alley, but assured us the hotel was just down the road a little. It was a shady walk to say the least, but he was right. The hotel was at the end of the road. The budget hotel offered free breakfast, free internet, private rooms, private bathrooms, and A/C. The cost? Some where between $20 and 25 USD a night.

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While in Bangkok we visited the Golden Palace, the city of Siam, caught a night of Kickboxing, took boats around the Floating Markets, saw a live cobra and snake show, and visited the famous Tiger Temple. We packed our two days with as much as possible.

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Dec '09

Getting to Queenstown from Christchurch

Travel Date: 7.15.09 to 7.16.09

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Before leaving Auckland, we made use of Base ACB’s Travel Desk to book some South Island time. Kez helped make most of the arrangements. After about an hour with her, we decided that since we were flying into Christchurch(CSC), we would stay there a night before making the 5-6 hour drive down to Queenstown. We intended to visit Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin (pronounced do-nee-din) and then drive back up to CSC. (This changed after visiting Queentown.)


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Once Kez was done booking our next couple of days, I asked her what we should do while in Christchurch. Her response was to roll her eyes, then said to grab some dinner and get an early start to Queenstown. When I arrived, I completely understood. While a perfectly fine town, there really isn’t much to do especially compared to other New Zealand cities. So we took her advice and made the trip down to Queenstown first thing in the morning.

Well, this was after the rental car agent explained how to use snow chains.

6 Hour Drive

IMG 0280Like the rest of New Zealand, there are no freeways between the major cities. So you must drive rural highways which take you through towns. Much of the South Island is covered by the alps, which makes for twisty roads. The new rental car was an automatic, which made for a much easier drive.

When I first landed in Christchurch, I could already tell the temperature was much lower. In fact, it was near 35(F) degrees. After about an hour of driving we got our first look at some snow, which we would see pretty much all the way into Queenstown.

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These photos are just some of the spectacular views we came across. If you look at the Picasa Album, you’ll be able to see on a map (or in Google Earth) where these were taken.

The Sheep

IMG 0459Just outside of Queenstown, we drove by a sheep farm which was right on the road. As I mentioned before, I really wanted to get a picture of a me next to a sheep. Actually, Jay and I were both hoping to get stuck on a road, while waiting for a herd to cross. In any case, we saw this farm and thought it was our chance to get a sheep picture. As soon as I approached the fence, the sheep started to run away! Even standing perfectly still for a few minutes did not get them to come closer. Though, I did notice that they were (apparently) fascinated by me. Isn’t this a creepy looking picture?

Although we didn’t have radio for most of the drive, it went by pretty quickly. We rolled into Queenstown right around 6pm, which looked like rush hour. It was obvious driving through the City Centre that this town was where I parked my car.

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Dec '09

Heading back to Auckland

Along the way back to Auckland, we stopped at a few different small towns. When we got to Whangarei , I was tired of driving through twisting roads in the rain, so we stopped for the night. Actually looked like it was going to be a happening Saturday night in this random town. However, after a couple of rounds of pool we turned in to get an early start the next day.

Cafe Eutopia

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Fully rested we got back on the road. After about an hour driving, we came across what looked like a Cafe in the shape of a boat. When we pulled into the parking lot, we could see that it was an outdoor cafe with six different huts made out of a material called “ferroconrete.” Even though one was labeled as the “Warm Room”, it is still rather cold. You would think the totally awesome ambiance would have been enough, but the food was even better. This is one of those finds where you are glad you drove a few extra minutes to find a place to eat.

Strong Man

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Our next stop brought us to an Art Workshop, by a man named the “Strong”? He is currently preparing for a show in Tokyo after returning from Amsterdam earlier in the year. Most of his work is some form of Maori symbol, hand carved out of enormous pieces of wood. From the day he receives raw material until the day he finishes, between 2 and 7 years will pass. The longest part of the wait is for the wood to completely dry. Since the wood pieces are not perfect and have some holes in this, he fills these holes with stone and epoxy, which adds a serious amount of beauty to something that was already beautiful. (My favorite piece is pictured here, even though we were not suppose to be taking pictures!)



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One of the goals of driving around by car was to get a picture with a sheep. I thought this goal would happen as we approached Dome Valley, which is home of Sheepworld! The clever design of Sheepworld requires you to enter the park through the Gift Shop. I asked the nice woman working what we’d get to see for $12 (NZD). Her response was less than inspiring, “you get to see all kinds of animals: goats, sheep, dogs, did I say goats?” She continued by saying, “the best thing is the Sheep Show, but that doesn’t start for another 2 hours.” She didn’t sell either of us on the admission price.


Snow World

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Slightly to the north of Auckland is a small town called Silverdale. We started seeing signs for snow skiing. This seem a little strange since the north island isn’t really cold enough for snow. Turns out, there was an indoor snow slope, called Snow Planet in Silverdale. For almost the entire time we were in New Zealand, the primary schools were on Holiday. You can imagine the number of children running around a place like this late Sunday afternoon. If we had not planned on doing some skiing in Queenstown, we might have given it a shot. However, why pay for fake when the real is so much better?

Being back in Auckland was strange, since we already knew the city pretty well. After a couple of days of lounging, we boarded a plane and headed down to the South Island.

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Dec '09

Dommo Arigato, Tokyo

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Tokyo is so huge, it is almost unfathomable how it could be called a city. Alone, Tokyo’s economy is larger than all of Canada. There are over 20 different districts, each with their own charms. Planning a quick stop in Tokyo is difficult on the first visit. There is simply too much to see or do. This was a place where filling in time around one or two goals was easy to do, and probably more productive than extensive planning.

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Dec '09

Bali is in the Airport

On arrival to Despensar, I had to purchase a $25 Visa on Arrival (VOA) before going through Immigration. Just over an hour passed from the time I landed until the time I touched my checked-baggage. Before I could grab my bag, a man with some kind of badge grabbed it and escorted me to the security screening area. While troubling, the process seemed official. Then the escort continued past the guards, with guns, to a specific money changer. At this point, I realized the guy carrying my bag was wearing a shirt that said “porter.” The “badge” was just some phony looking thing, to give him minimal credibility. The man refused to return my bag until I gave him 20,000Rp ($20). Welcome to Bali.

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