Saturday, March 30, 2019

Foptics: See Bae Happy

Decided to push forward this post instead because a lot of people have been asking about my new spectacles! (And also cos I wanted to give you guys a break from all my travel posts :P) What is so impressive about my new spectacles is its affordability and trendy designs. It is such a good deal that people have been badgering to release the post.

So oh well, guess I have to let this gem out of its bag - early. Foptics started off as an online shop and provides value-for-money prescription glasses. With its huge fan-base of happy customer, Foptics has now finally open its brick and mortar shop to serve them!

The thing about buying prescription glasses online is that you never fully know your prescription. At its shop, Foptics offer a free eye-test and even provide you your prescription. This allows you to buy your glasses online in future. Woohoo! Given that the shop is not really near my house, I was really happy that I have a more convenient option in future.

I have to admit that the selection at Foptics isn't the widest. But it has the latest designs and you will still find something you want there. There are fun frames and also the more serious looking ones which you can wear for work. I more or less knew what I wanted, so I tried on those that were of "Potter-Style". Hehe.

This is my first purchase with Foptics and I think I am already a fan:
  1. The staff at Foptics are so nice and give a lot of suggestions/ help if you need it.
  2. The store has a young vibe and I feel very at ease trying out the frames. You can just try them freely. 
  3. Foptics accept online payment. It makes everything so easy. 
  4. It is incredibly affordable. For an extra S$14, you can get a blue-light lens and they even explain to you through a demo on how the lens disperse blue light. See second collage for some demo photos. 
  5. It makes wearing specs "in" again. I am so happy with my new look, I have shelved aside my Lasik plans. 

Within 3 working days, my specs were done. And I received my spectacles by post on Day 4. You could totally self-collect from the store. But I opted to top up a bit more for convenience. And I have been loving my specs ever since. I love that it is fun. I love that it shows my personality.

I love that it shapes my face well. I love that it reflects me better. I love the change and I love the new me. I guess you can really say I am "see bae happy" aka sibei happy with Foptics! Hope their shop won't be overwhelmed by the new customers that I have raved to :P

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Best of Dunedin: Larnach Castle

Honestly, Dunedin was one of my least favourite cities in New Zealand. But if you happen to pop over there for whatever reason, the one place you should really consider going is Larnach Castle. It is one of the only two castles in New Zealand.

For our package, it came with the high-tea. Though it not very cheap, it was definitely enjoyable acting wealthy. Haha. The sandwiches and pastries were yummy and it came with a pot of tea each. I can totally understand why the royalties love their tea time...relaxing and tranquil.

The refurbishment of Larnach Castle is a private project and I was really impressed with the dedication and effort put in by the Barker family. From a worn-down place, the family have re-built the gardens and restored the house to its former glory. Please do save some time to explore the house and gardens because it is really different from other castles we have seen elsewhere.

And that's because...the castle is rather spooky. The previous owners of the house met lots of unfortunate event, suicides, murders, backstabs...You are basically allowed to enter every room, and every cranky, so it feels real and not curated. So real, you never feel truly alone. Gulp.

Also, the current owners have made tremendous effort to bring back the items used by their previous owner. Rusty tubs, old baby cots....all these brings chills down my spine. If I were to come at night, this place might scare the shit out of me. But if you manage to survive all the way to the top, you will be rewarded with a beautiful sight.

It is quite a beautiful place. If you have the opportunity, you should also book a night to stay in its refurbished stable. Give the high tea a miss if need be, but don't skip the gardens and the castle!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Real Journeys: Milford Sound

I have to admit...I was glad I took a tour for Milford Sound with Real Journeys. Much as I love driving, I was positively tired. And it was great trying out different options - cruise, bus, car etc. Going on a tour means they have sieved through the scenic spots along the you don't have to stop for things ain't worth your time.

As part of the package, you also get an experienced tour guide, who could explain to us how the magnificent wonders of nature were formed. Interesting trees and floras were also pointed out to us. Honestly, we have passed by them so many times on our own and have failed to notice them. Oops.

The road to Milford Sound isn't particularly difficult to drive. Travellers can also choose to drive to the dock and join the cruise instead. However, parking can be a chore and I doubt most cars have a glass-roof that let you admire the tall mountains. :D

Real Journeys provides different Milford Sound packages. For us, we picked the Milford Sound Nature Cruises because we wanted a smaller boat and a longer ride. A smaller boat means we can go closer to the rocks/ shore and we really wanted more time to soak in the beauty of Milford Sound.

Because the water at Milford Sound is quite calm, the journey on water is smooth. Even on the small vessel, none of the passengers got sea-sick. The nature cruises do not have a big kitchen, hence there is no option for a buffet lunch. (For those of you interested in having the buffet lunch, please check out the Scenic Cruises here).

Nonetheless, you could top up and get yourself the bento or the picnic set. Alternatively, you could also grab some food at pit-stops. Much to the envy of many, we got the bento. :P It came with sushi, miso soup and rice. Mmmm! is tasty enough to satisfy your oriental craving! Personally, I think the picnic set is quite yummy too! Life really felt great, with a jaw-dropping view as the backdrop.

True to its hype, Milford Sound is truly a sight to behold. None of my photos can rightly do its justice, you really have to see and be there for yourself to immerse in God's creation. There were layers of tall, rocky mountains, I swore I would have gotten lost if I had been the navigators. We also had a guide on board and we were told that Milford Sound is beautiful in all weathers.

We had sunshine throughout. Our Milford was not shrouded in a mystery mist, but was grand and ready to leave every passenger dazzled. Through our guide, we squint and caught sight of tiny lighthouse in the horizons. We even spotted seals camouflaged on the rocks. And these are moments where a tiny boat comes in handy...cos we could approach them and catch them close-up.

And here's my favourite moment! For me a trip can never be complete, if you can't bring a bit of nature home. Rumours say be splashed by the waterfall and you will go home 10 years younger. Let me know if I look my teens now. Hehe. Unfortunately, for me I didn't have the best spot. And when I did, the boat was moving away.

Since you are my readers, let me leave you some tip so that you can get the best view on the trip.
  1. Sit on the left-side of the bus. The best view are always on the left!
  2. Have picnic pack indoors. Mind you, the wind on deck is no joke. If don't want your food to fly (unless you are having the bento), have them indoors.
  3. Hog the front of the deck (L2) midway of the trip. Most passengers would have given up on the wind/ coldness and huddle to the back or indoors for a hot drink. This is your moment, cos that is when we will reach the seals, lighthouse and waterfall. 
  4. Bring a wind-breaker. To secure your best spot, you will and must need this!

Real Journeys office is located near the harbour at Queenstown, so it is quite easy to find them. Unlike other tour agencies, complimentary transport is transported to and fro your accommodation, so you don't have to worry about driving to town in the wee mornings and late evenings.

Just so you know, there are also overnight stays at Milford Sound with Real Journeys! It is always booked out months in advance, so this is something up your alley, you better act fast. You get to do sea-sports and will have the opportunity to catch golden hue cast upon the mountains. Now, aint you glad you hear from me early! 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Real Journeys: Steaming through TSS Earnslaw

Queenstown is known to be the adventure town, but do you known apart from bungy jumps and nevis swings, you can take a steamship - TSS Earnslaw down Lake Wakatipu and enjoy the splendid view along the way.

Today, TSS Earnslaw is the only hand fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere. This famous ship has been featured in many movies such as  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. TSS Earnslaw has carried many famous visitors, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and President Bill Clinton. It is really our honour to be one of the guests on the steamship.

One of the most exciting part of the cruise-ride, apart from taking in the nice breeze and view, was exploring the ship. This fine lady was not at all shy from showing her guests her inner body parts. You can catch a glimpse of her engines from the upper deck if you are not too keen to pull yourself away from the bar and music.

But if you are an engine geek like me, head on the lower deck. Because there you can have a close-up and feel the heat of the engine. Also, psss, there is a tiny gallery out at the bow of the ship. Not many people actually venture into the lower deck, so you can actually get quite a good seat :P Have also attached a video for you guys to appreciate the mechanism better.

To make your deal more value for money, we would suggest upgrading package such that it includes a meal at Walter Peak. For us, we took up a Gourmet BBQ Dinner since you have the day to try out other activities. This deal comes with a free-sheep shearing show and you will also get to roam the farm. :D

First of all, I have to proclaim that Walter Peak is gorgeous. In fact, the Captain had to sound the horn to tell me to leave. Oops. It is slightly more curated than other scenary in New Zealand. But this place is picturesque without the need for any filter. The place is so vast, you don't even need to fight with the tourists for photo spots.

Dinner was also fantastic. I was expected food in touristy area to be mediocre at best. The buffet at Colonel's Homestead pleasantly surprised me with the food variety and quality. Because it was a buffet, you could also eat till your heart's content. The Hubby and I have not been eating a lot of cooked vegetables during the trip, so we were pleasantly surprised to find vegetables cooked in the oriental fashion.

I was also particularly satisfied with the BBQ meats because restaurants outside don't really cook it in that manner. For its value, the food quality was also exceptional. The prawns were really fresh, even I had a few. And you can enjoy this meal with a million-dollar lake view by the window! I was for sure the envy of many back at home. :P

Personally, one of the highlights for me was also the sheep sheering/ sheep dog show. In most farms, you rarely get to see the sheep dogs at work. So this was truly an eye-opener for me. The show was very informative and I got to learnt so much about the dogs and the sheep. (Definitely not to be missed!)

Generally, you have sufficient time to (i) take photos, (ii) attend the farm show, (iii) have a fulfilling dinner. But part of me really wanted to stay longer because it was so beautiful and I definitely won't mind more poster-like photos. Hehe. If you are also considering going for the ride, you might want to consider the later timing to catch the sunset. Do feel free to drop me an email if you have any queries or need more information.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gibbston Valley: A taste of Otago

One of the must-do activity NZ is to visit the wineries. For us we went to Gibbston Valley because it was one of the only few wineries with a cave. From other feedback, it was observed that the food and drinks sold here was the most affordable and reasonable as compared to other wineries.

Within the winery, there was also a cheese company. We loved the cheese so much that we bought a bunch of them home. We had lunch first before doing the cave and winery tour which included wine tasting.

If you are like me, who flushes at the drop of alcohol, you might consider doing the tours and wine tasting first. We spent at least half an hour trying to flush the colour out of my face before we set off on the road. For our lunch, we took ala-carte.

We had a very heavy breakfast at the Remarkables Market, so we only ordered 2 mains, a sharing side and a drink. This summed up to to NZ$50-70ish which was surprisingly reasonable and does not shortchange you in terms of the food quality. I heard that usually you might end up spending until NZ$200-ish (without alcohol) at other wineries.

The tour took about 45-minutes max and you get to sample 5 wine. During this tour, I learnt a lot on the making of the wine by our friendly guide - CoCo. As you would need to do slight walking to locations within the winery, there is little time to take photos during the tour. Would suggest that you take them after the tour instead.

The wine cave is a little dark so the photos inside didn't show out as nicely on phones. During the cave tour, you will also get to sample some wine during the tour. We tried the (i) Pinot Gris, (ii) Riesling, (iii) Chardonnay, (iv) Pinot Noir (China Terrace) and (v) Pinot Noir (Schoolhouse). If you taste something you like, you can even send a bottle or 2 back home. :D

Special treat: On route to Gibbston Valley, you will pass The Pillars of the Kings from LOTR. I would have to admit the drive isn't the easiest and if the weather is bad, you might have to a void this altogether. But it is worth the ascend cos the view is breathtaking.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Must Do: Heli-Hike at Franz Josef Glacier

To be honest, this was one of the highlights for me of the trip. I have been to Iceland's glacier and sort. But I have only looked at them from afar - this time I am going to scale through wow.

Remember to put at least 2 days at Franz Josef because the Heli-Hike is very weather-dependent. We almost couldn't scale up and boy I was bumped. I tried to comfort myself on the money we could save...but hey this is one place I really wanted to go, it's really not about the money!

So one reason why this activity is a little more on the pricey side is because it came with a short helicopter ride. It is really good for people who have never taken a helicopter (not me by the way!)

And it is considered affordable if you want to have an aerial view of Franz Josef and its glacier.
I was quite lucky because Asians being tinier/lighter, got to sit at the cockpit with the pilot. So I was treated to a clear view through the windows. Have also embedded a video of the glaciers before we landed. :D

I met some Singaporeans in NZ and they asked me about the attire etc. So I thought I should share it here as well. Basically, Franz Josef Glacier Guides (the organiser I used) will provide you with the warm jackets and pants. A red beanie is also given (which you can choose to bring home as a souvenir!) Ice claws for the shoes are also provided. The clumsy me took a while to get used to it, but if I can do it so can you!

All hikers will be provided a tiny pouch to store the essentials you can bring up. It is big enough to store a tiny bottle, a powerbank, a phone, a go-pro etc. We managed to to stuff a lunch box into the hubby's pouch o.O! I bought a handful of wrapped chocolates up and it came in very handy. I think I am just a person who use up my energy too fast. Whatever you can't bring out, you can just throw inside a locker, which can be rented with NZ$2.

The whole hike itself took about 2 to 2.5 hours. Basically, all you will be seeing would be different types of formation of ice, which could grow to become boring...except we had an exceptional guide...Matt. So Matt would share interesting facts as we hike through the areas, pointing out sights and increasing our knowledge on ice formations.

He is also the navigator carving though the ice path, photographer, teacher etc. It was a lot of fun and this even come with entrance to the Glacier Hot Pool. I am sorry I didn't take any photos inside because the hubby said it was rude to take photos. There are 3 pools inside and I only stayed for half an hour cos we didn't have any more time. :(I wish we had upgraded to a private pool instead (FYI, do it early cos it gets booked out fast!)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Akaroa: The Giant's House

We arrived rather late at Akaroa, so we were quite lucky we didn't manage to get a slot for Swimming with Dolphins since we would probably end up missing it anyway. And I sure was glad we had more time at Akaroa because we spent nearly 2 to 2.5 hours at the Giant's House.

To share a little more, the Giant's House is a garden gallery with mosaic pieces. With many art pieces displayed at every corner of the house and garden, be prepared to get your cameras out as there are many photo opportunities with the mosaic structures and blooming flowers.

The intricacy of each piece at the the Giant's House leave you in awe. You can imagine the amount of effort put by the artist, Josie Martin on each piece. (Pss...we were so lucky to say Hi to her!) The collage above only highlights some of the pieces which our eyes feasted upon.

Akaroa is really quite a chill town and visiting this place started our day and the whole vacation on a bright and cheery note. Like a lost child, we wandered in the garden and was astonished by some our finds - especially when we spot a tiny gem.

There is also the option of staying in the house while you are there. Though refreshing, I found the price a little too steep. But if you are really into staying inside a gallery and having more time and the gardens to yourself, staying there is quite a good option. (P.S. there's quite a bit of tourist so you might not be able to have clear shots.)

As part of the entrance fees, you can also visit a gallery showcasing some of Josie's work. The only grouse I have is that some of this work is not made into magnets or souvenirs so that you can buy and bring a piece of The Giant's House home. Sigh. Hopefully, Josie sees this post and next time you guys visit, you can get me something :P

Monday, March 4, 2019

Best Burgers in NZ: Bacon Bros Burgers

We touched down in Singapore from New Zealand and is feeling the withdrawal symptoms fast and hard. What better way then to start reminiscing the delicious food and interesting places we visited during our trip.

Generally, the western food are of a higher standard than what you would have in Singapore. In terms of price, you can expect around restaurant price, between NZ$20 to NZ$30. For fast food i.e. fish and chips (there is barely any Macs or KFC there), you can get it around NZ$10.

Burgers is quite a common sight in New Zealand, and on our first day, we managed to hunt down Bacon Bros Burgers. The portion of the burgers are huge and are within NZ$10 to NZ$20...mind blown. Bacon Bros Burgers is located at The Little High Eatery, a very cool hang-out even by the local's standards. Apart from Bacon Bros Burgers, you can expect to see other joints selling Thai food, Chinese food etc.

Whatever your favourite type of food is, there is sure to be something for you at The Little High Eatery. Plus there is free wifi there too. I am sure some of you have actually heard of Fergburgers of Queenstown. I know some of you may argue with me on this, but personally I think Bacon Bros Burgers is comparable or even better!

Shane (NZ$15) as of now is my favourite burger. I have to admit I just love the combination of hash brown and bacon. Awesome! Another highlight would have to be their handcut fries. The portion is crazy, I could barely finish it, but it satisfied my craving of any fries the entire trip. Yup, it was that good.

Non-locals, please remember to try out their Gingerella and Karma Coke. Gingerella in particular, it is damn frigging delicious. And believe it or not, I am now the face of Gingerella. So please remember to support me! Hehe.