It’s already Year 2016 (actually, we are two weeks into it!)
As much as I would love to declare that one of my NY resolutions is to blog more, I shan’t. Because, you know what, I hate being pressurized to blog.
I don’t want to churn out half-hearted, rushed entries or advertorials just for the sake of it because this blog has become our much beloved memory-keeper and I want its voice to be what its always been – sincere, true, and spontaneous – and for it to stay that way.
So let me make a more realistic goal – I’m aiming to get all my New Zealand posts out by the end of this month! I’m dedicating an hour of my me-time every afternoon just to putting together photos and memories for a photobook that I’ll be gifting my family – this trip has been so precious and so memorable I think we all want to remember it for the rest of our lives.
Some back story – my family is basically divided into three countries at the least at any given point in time. If you add in K’s family, you can include another country in the mix. But yes, the gist is, we hardly ever get together because we’re all at different stages in life, different countries. We are SUPER close, that is for sure, but time together is scarce and so very precious. This trip, we spent almost two whopping weeks on the road together – more time than we have all spent together for at least four long years, and it was wonderful 🙂
In this series, I’ll be recording our memories, the places we went, and of course sharing recommendations with all of you should you want to plan an equally epic family holiday to NZ! We travelled in a huge group of 9 adults and one toddler. 🙂
Some tips about travelling to NZ with kids
- Book your tickets early, especially if you’re travelling during peak periods. Christmas and NY tickets can be $2,500 per person or even more if you wait too late to book! 😦
- Don’t worry if you need to bring in milk powder for your little one. Just remember to declare ALL foodstuff or dairy products at immigration. They are firm, but helpful.
- Try to take the red-eye flight – and a direct one. The flights which transit through Australia often have weird timings or super long transits which can really stress you out if you’re travelling with small children.
- If you’re travelling in Summer, pack layers. A good wind-breaker, long-sleeved but comfortable tops, and leggings/jeans are highly recommended. Like what my Mama says, we’re on a rustic holiday, not on a chi-chi shopping trip to Paris (of course said to me)
- DO pack disposable diapers and wipes in the brands you prefer if you are particular. The selection in NZ supermarkets is quite limited when it comes to baby products and snacks.
So here’s how the first leg went – we flew about 9.5 hours directly to Auckland Airport and then drove down to Rotorua.
Here we are, about to set off ! We flew SQ, which is always good, but even then a 9.5 straight flight was very taxing. She mostly slept through the flight, which was a red-eye (always book red-eye for long haul!) but the last 2-3 hours were quite tiring as we had to keep her entertained constantly with stickers, books, toys, etc. This time she only got snacks during take-off and landing because I didn’t want her to get bloated or have a tummy upset. We’ve almost completely cut out snacks from Sophie-doll’s diet in the past month or so and hope to keep it that way!
Doesn’t she look excited?
Chilling with her Nuby bottle (review and giveaway coming up soon!) from Bloom and Grow while we were grabbing a quick dinner in the lounge. It was Summer in NZ which has strong sun but equally strong winds so I layered, layered and layered.
We landed in NZ, had a joyous reunion with the rest of the family flying in from HKG, did some supermarket shopping for breakfast (their equivalent of a Walmart/Woolies/Cole’s here is Countdown and Shop and Pak – so look out for those!) and then we all basically passed out after the excrutiating three hour ride + super long flights!
The next morning, we headed nice and early to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve to have a look at the Pohutu Geyser and also to explore the living Maori village (a bit of cultural appreciation for the country you’re travelling in is quite important for a more nuanced understanding, me thinks!)
It was HOT! The sun was blazing but luckily because of the cool winds we weren’t dripping in perspiration. We had a good time learning more about Maori culture, their origins, their community and their language.
Here’s the famous geyser in question:
And there’s our little volcano throwing her own eruption because NO.PHOTO.MAMA! COME. DOWN! Also, she kept wrinkling her nose because the entire park (being a thermal reserve sitting on lots of limestone) reeked of sulphur. For the uninitiated, sulphur basically smells like rotten or bad eggs. It’s completely tolerable, though, just a low grade sulphurous smell – not anything that knocks you over. And quite a unique experience, I have to say!
Did I mention, that K and I basically became persona non-grata during the trip to Sophie-doll? My parents and siblings became her new favourite people and she was constantly using them to get away with being naughty and in general being about five times more bratty than she usually is in Singapore.
I got annoyed at her about it in the beginning, but hey, she only gets a few weeks a year to be hopelessly spoilt by her aunt, uncles and grandparents so we decided to just let it go and let them stuff her with sweets and drown her with attention. 🙂
With Grandma and Grandpa:
Don’t they look young enough to be, cough, her parents? 🙂
I wouldn’t say that the thermal reserve was anything very exciting – we were actually kind of bummed because the last time we were there, they had more activities happening, more visitors and the village was a lot more vibrant. The highlight back then was when they sold corn and meat which had been steamed in the hot rocks near the geyser – it was SO delicious and sweet! That was 10 years ago – now you basically have to pay another $50 on top of your basic ticket to enjoy a steambox lunch. We didn’t do that, so we missed out 😦
It did make for a very educational and leisurely morning out, though!
Sophie was quite fascinated by the hand-carvings. Did you know that the Maori’s art depicting humans are always distorted because they believed it was sacrilegious to their Gods to try to recreate the exact human form?
Rounded it off with what I think (to Sophie) was the main attraction: a big scoop of Tip Top Hokey Pokey x Rum Raisin Ice Cream!
You can’t miss out on Tip Top in NZ – it’s local, it’s like their Walls – and the ice cream is really decent – I guess that’s what comes when you’re a dairy-producing country. The ice cream was lovely – milky, creamy, just dense enough and very very fresh. Hokey Pokey is a local creation and favourite – it’s basically crunchy little honeycomb caramels embedded in sweet cream ice cream. Mmmm.
I don’t know how many cups and spoons we ate in NZ – we stopped almost every time we saw it! But I wouldn’t mind having some right now here in SG – the weather is sweltering!
The next morning – all the adrenaline junkies at home were getting pysched up! We headed to the Rotorua Skyline and Luge – the boys were finding things WAY too sedate and were craving for some physical adventure.
Our cozy little place – it was so nice to have a garden large enough for Sophie-doll to run around in – and so much fresh air 🙂
Off we went!
So, basically you take a cable car up to the luging centre at the top of the “mountain”, and then you take a rickety gondola lift EVEN higher, and then you luge down on a one-speed contraption through twisty turns and steep dips.
Here I am in a rare, babyless photo with No.4 and No.2:
Dress dark, and dress comfortably. You don’t want to expose yourself in a dress or get dirt/mud on your white top when you’re luging. The winds are cold when you’re racing down, so a windbreaker or a good sweater is probably a good idea!
But don’t worry, it really is a lot of blood pumping but harmless fun – even Sophie-doll got to go on it, albeit accompanied and of course only on the granny (oops, I meant scenic) track!
The Soh-Teos, all helmeted up!
Look at how she’s raring to go!
My family is CRAZILY competitive – I’m talking slamming into each other while luging and trash-talking each other while queuing up kind of competitive. Partly because I have four brothers – but what am I saying, my sister is equally bad. So while K and I more or less chugged down the scenic track with Sophie, the rest were zipping dangerously away on the Advanced tracks and challenging each other non-stop.
Until I guilted my sister into taking ONE trip with Sophie, lol.
And here she is with Papa, zooming to the end!
I would say the Skyline and Luge at Rotorua is definitely worth an experience, especially if you’ve got older kids or teenagers – it’s not too dangerous (like bungee jumping), it can be a family activity and you get to enjoy a lovely view of Rotorua and the mountainside! We had so much fun that day!
Hope you enjoyed this short little post to start off my NZ series! Next up, we headed to Hobbiton near Hamilton for some Middle Earth exploration!