Weekend in Queenstown

Queenstown is also known as the activity capital of at least the South, if not whole of New Zealand. This lovely little village in the south-west of the South Island is nested by the lake Wakatipu and offers activities, tours and fun for backpackers as well as travellers with extra cash to spare. You can get your adrenaline fix from skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, jet boating, white water rafting and a myriad of other options guaranteed to make a dent in your budget, or if you are more into the scenery and not so keen on getting your heart rate up and pumping, options like wine trails, steam boat cruises, underwater marine observatory or soaking in the sun by a lakefront restaurant might be more your cup of tea.

Lakefront.
Lakefront.
Weird water flying activities.
Weird water flying activities.

I arrived in Queenstown on a Friday evening, not having any plans regarding the weekend (as per usual). On my scouting walk around town I randomly saw a poster in a restaurant window that caught my eye. Kidnap Kid, one of my favourite artists (especially for pre-service prep music), was playing a gig at a bar that same night. What are the odds, for me to randomly arrive in this small town on the other side of the world, the same day that an artist I highly respect, from the UK, is playing in said town – and for me to stumble across the ad? I overcome my doubts and fear of going to a bar alone, let alone sober, and ended up having a solid dance off for 3 hours straight. It was a lovely intimate setting, and I was within touching reach of the dj. After the gig I went to thank him, we had a nice chat and I went to bed happy, sweaty and tired. – Girls only dorm this time, no snoring, winner winner!

Market bustle.
Market bustle.

On Saturday I ventured around town, and went for an impromptu walk along the lake – a walk to Frankton, the village next to Queenstown, that turned out to be 15kms. Had I known I’d be going that far, I would have prepared myself better. After a refreshing shower and sushi lunch (I decided not to cook in Queenstown, since there’s plenty of cooking in limited conditions ahead) I met up with some new friends, an Estonian bus captain and his crew that has shrunk from 4 to just 1, an Italian guy who looks like Jesus. We hung out at the bus that has been converted into a self-contained motor home, cooked and listened to music. Eventually we got around to go to the dump station and supermarket outside of town, where I stocked on dry food for my Franz Josef experience next week. By the time we got back in town it was too late for me to go book a trip to Milford Sound, apparently the 8th wonder of the world, that would have taken the whole Sunday. Bummer. We ended up chilling out with the guys until I was so tired I could barely walk back home, it was a cold night! As soon as the sun sets, the coldness creeps in.

Mobile house.
Mobile house.
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!

On Sunday I felt like the flu I might have caught from the sick people in my room in Christchurch was creeping in, and terrible for not doing the Milford Sound cruise, and I felt like some activity was in place. After wandering and wondering and ruling out options (anything involving heights), I decided to go for a 2.5hr horseback ride in the scenes of Lord of the Rings! It has been a while (read: years and years) since I was last on a horse, but hey, how hard can it be? Apparently so hard that my fellow rider fell off her horse, but that’s a different story. We did ride in some amazing scenery, but let’s be honest: so far all of New Zealand has been equally amazing, whether it appears in a movie or not. We did stop for a picture in front of Isengard, a spot where Taylor Swift also filmed her newest video. After heading back to town, I ate some quinoa sushi by the water, and watched the people and street performers. Later on I met up with a classmate I haven’t seen since…2012! Funny to encounter someone after such a long time, pretty much as far from home as possible. Somehow it was almost midnight before I got to bed, to the lovely snore-free haze of sleep and being awake. I wish I could have had one more day for Milford, but oh well, off to Wanaka in the morning.

Horseback riding in Isengard.
Horseback riding in Isengard.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.
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On Working Hard vs. Hardly Working

There was a time when I got barely 2 days of work per week. The last week or few weeks I have been working more than sleeping or doing anything else. Somehow you adapt to the 12 or 14hr workdays and when you actually have free time, there’s this odd emptiness about what you should be doing to be more productive and as effective as possible. Working in Laneway Greens for the past 4 months has taught me a great deal about over the top cleanliness (it must be the cleanest kitchen in the Southern hemisphere!), dealing with extremely busy service, and to handle stress. I think the biggest learning I’ve got is to let go and not stress about work too much. There are only so many things I can affect, and so many things I can do. After making a mistake, it is best to learn from it, and to let it be. No point in dwelling and feeling like a loser. I think realizing not to stress (oh boy did I stress about anything and everything for a good few months) makes you actually work better. It definitely improves your mood.

I needed more hours and, to be honest variety to just whirring the Vitamix, so I snatched a job in the kitchen (looks more like the setup of a food truck) of a non for profit bar just around the corner from my old job. The place is very relaxed, I am basically my own boss since I’m in the kitchen alone most of the time, and I work with a bunch of people who never say no to a staff meeting (aka shots behind the bar meaning in the kitchen). The job is very social since I’m making the food in front of customers who sit outside, and I think having that aspect is good for me. Doesn’t make me feel so bad about spending my nights at work. And after the shift I can sit down, have a drink (yes the times of sobriety ended as I started working a bar) and go see a gig downstairs. So it’s like having a night out, without actually having to go anywhere. Too easy, as they say.

Summer is coming. I’m riding my bike everywhere. Trying to get a tan, started reading books again. Have grown a muscle next to my knee. Have no time to cook or go shopping, so saving money. Have no time to exercise like a maniac, but still do as much as I can. Exciting things coming up next year! And a new computer soon, so pictures again, yaaay!

Stay chill my friends.

Canggu

I have now stayed and kept on extending my accommodation day after day in one of Bali’s most potential surfers’ paradise and upcoming cool hipster mecca, Canggu. Canggu is located a bit north from the infamous party beach of Kuta, followed by Legian and Seminyak, after which comes Kerobokan area where in my best understanding also Canggu is located. I have enjoyed my time here without doing much anything, which is very rare, odd and even scary for me. Why have I stayed so long? I am not even a surfer, though I am doing my best to learn and not to mind the visual damages than follow when getting hit by the board or rolling in the “washing machine” (No picture of my fin hit purple thigh, sorry).

Compared to other places (for example Ubud and Kuta, where I visited for 1 hour the other day and was extremely glad to get away), you are not constantly hassled by people who want to sell you tourist stuff or offer you a taxi/tour/rafting/mushrooms.

Doesn't get more chill than this
Doesn’t get more chill than this

Canggu is laid-back. No one is in a hurry to go anywhere, the biggest topic of the day is the swell and tide, and where to have dinner. And oh boy, there are options. Naturally I want to tell you more about food rather than my experiences of getting my face rubbed against the sand in the sea, or seeing a car (or better yet, two cars) fallen into the rice field.

Best picks for Canggu, if you ever happen to be around:

Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it!
Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it! Moshpit is The One, for now.

Crate. Awesome breakfast, quality coffee and good lunch options too for ridiculously cheap prices compared to some other places. You can swap to out-of-this-world-delicious gluten free bread without extra cost, and man that stuff is yum! This place is very laid back and rustic, almost like you’re in an open space loft in San Francisco (though the weather was 38C today)! No extra taxes added, which is always a plus!

 

Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.
Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.

Betelnut. Next to Crate, this lovely joint is also open for dinner, but offers also breakfast, smoothies, desserts and whatnot. I have tried their raw gado gado several times, and the other guys usually go for a burger or wraps. Mixture of comforting Western and Asian grub, this place is cosy and also cheap, no added tax.

 

Happy hour at Old Man's.
Happy hour at Old Man’s.

Old Man’s. Bar by the beach with happy hour every weekday – what more can you ask for? Live music at nighttime. Even after rather heavy drinking people drive home on their scooter through the rice paddies.

 

Indo food for like less than 2 euros.
Indo food for like less than 2 euros.

Warung Heebo. Indonesian food that is so cheap it is odd. No idea how they price their food: basically you pick the stuff you want and they give you a price tag which you hand over at the cashier. Convenient.

Deus (ex Machina). Apparently sells motorcycles, cool gear, surfboards and such, but is also a restaurant and “the place to be” on a Sunday night.

Some more? Sprout. Disappointment price-wise, but has AC. Canteen. Another brekkie option, but since I’m so deeply in love with Crate, I haven’t tried it out. Avocado. Sounds tempting, but I have not yet made it there. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.

Beach babe at Berawa.
Beach babe at Berawa.

Beaches. Berawa, Batubolong, Old Man’s, Echo. All the same sea and you can walk the shore, but somehow different. As a beginner surfer I’d go for Batubolong. Oh yeah, I am a surfer. One day, maybe.

When in Canggu, you really need a motorcycle to get around. I had never in my life driven one, but what’s a better place to learn than one where there’s almost no rules, and everyone just seems to drive like a maniac? In the smaller roads I feel quite okay, but I would not go to the bigger ones. And I still prefer to be on the back of a bike than to be the one driving.

Chill mate, we're surfing.
Chill mate, we’re surfing.

Days just seem to float on by, and even though I have plans on moving somewhere else, there is a vibe here that I enjoy. Even besides the food.

Halloween-ish

Halloween is not a big deal in Japan. The stores do have cute Halloween gear on sale, but the culture is not really popular, at least so I’ve heard. International students can make a difference, though!

Japanese Halloween: cute, scary or both?

We had a joined birthday party and Halloween in a rather interesting venue called Hit Parade. The place reminded me of a cruise boat, with the food buffet, all you can drink-offer and live band. This band was 50’s style, played swingin’ dancing music and there was kids running around, shy about the incarnations of their favorite anime characters.

We had our own balcony, which was strictly supervised by the manager the whole evening

The evening was a success, though we got the feeling that we were not really welcome to the place. However, Drinks were served and the night continued to our regular (the only) student bar, where we met up with more dressed up people.

He got at least 5 identical twins – playing in the same band!

Once again, we were asked to pose in many pictures. This time the costumes might have had some effect, though.

Drangonball and Anpanman dancing the night away

The night was a success, and the experience was definitely worth repeating! In Finland it would not be possible to have all you can eat and drink for 30 euros. Ever.

Sing it like you mean it

In addition to sushi, one simply must do karaoke in Japan. In Finland karaoke is highly popular, sung in pubs where everyone has to listen to the often very drunk, and very poorly skilled singers. In Japan, the promised land of karaoke, you gather your friends and go to a private room, where you can sing for a certain period of time – for extra price the drinks are included. Food and snacks can also be ordered for more satisfying experience.

Beppu may not have nightclubs, but there are several karaoke bars where you can shake that tambourine and pretend you’re the Black Eyes Peas. On the last weekend before school start, bunch of exchange students and few Japanese buddies gathered in a karaoke room in Beppu Tower for a few hours of singing and drinking drinks that were ordered mostly by pointing from the menu.

Eh sexy lady – Gangnam style!

In addition to Gangnam style (two Korean-savvy girls singing, many Scandinavians dancing), on the playlist were hits like I Will Survive, This Love from Maroon Five, some Coldplay, and many others. For next time, I need to make a list of the songs I want to sing – oh yes, there will be a next time. For 1600 yen you can sing for 2 hours, drink as much as you can, and apparently there is some kind of transportation from AP house as well. I wonder how much karaoke costs in bigger cities?