Christmas Road Trip: Part 1

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The Nugget Point Lighthouse

For my 10 day break from teaching in Christchurch, I took a 10 day road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. I headed south from Christchurch and spent a couple of days in the Catlins, then spent a rainy Christmas day in Bluff. This part of the country is less heavily touristed than most others and I was able to do quite a bit of sightseeing and hiking in relative tranquility. Highlights of the first few days were the Moeraki Boulders, Nugget Point, the trio of waterfalls (Purakaunui, Mclean, and Matai), and hiking in Bluff. There are amazing birds and flowers as well as spectacular ocean views from the Bluff lookout.

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The Everglades

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A view of the Everglades from the boardwalk at Kirby Storter Roadside Park

The Everglades is a 1.5 million acre swath of wetlands in Southern Florida. There are two main highways that cut through the preserve – the Tamiami (Tampa to Miami) and I-75 (Alligator Alley). Tamiami is generally considered the more touristic way to see the sites, as there are several stops with walking paths along the way. It’s easy to see alligators most times of year and there are tons of bird species as well. My favorite walking path was at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park as it was a bit quieter and more secluded than the other areas. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there are also extended walking trails for longer camping trips.

The little town of Ochopee is a nice stop along the way if you’re doing a road trip. You can see the smallest post office in the United States and grab lunch at Joanie’s Blue Crab, a divey local joint with lots of fried seafood on offer.

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Sightseeing in Houston

The infamous Beer Can House in Houston, TX

The infamous Beer Can House in Houston, TX

It’s long overdue for me to post photos from my four weeks in Houston earlier this summer. I was there for a work stint but managed to do quite a bit of sightseeing. A major highlight was the Beer Can House which was one man’s project taken delightfully too far. The entire outside of the house is covered in beer cans, including wind chimes that shield the whole front entrance. The chimes can be heard from blocks away! It was worth the small entrance fee to see the inside of the house and take a guided tour, as the John Milkovisch – the man responsible – is as interesting as his creation.

I also took a side trip to Galveston which was a pleasant day. The beach wasn’t terribly impressive and the water didn’t look too appealing, but I had an amazing po’boy and enjoyed learning the history behind the island.

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Melbourne: A Photo Essay

The iconic Flinders Street train station in Melbourne's CBD

The iconic Flinders Street train station in Melbourne’s CBD

I have spent the past month in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria. I wanted to begin my year in Australia here because I had heard so many amazing things about the city – how it embraces culture and the arts, the booming street art scene, great food, lots of neighborhoods to explore, a young demographic because of all the universities. I certainly haven’t been disappointed.

One of the best things to do in Melbourne is to visit museums. Nearly all the museums in town have free admittance to their permanent exhibitions: the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Center for Moving Images, the Grainger Museum, the State Library of Victoria. You could fill days and days just museum hopping and not spend a penny!

Another highlight of Melbourne is all of the gardens – acres and acres of well tended trees and flowers to explore. There are free tours in both the Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens, or you can just wander on your own. There are also free walking tours with I’m Free, which is a great way to get introduced to the history of the city and its layout.

There are still so many things left to do in Melbourne – visit the Victoria Market, explore Footscray and other outlying suburbs, go hiking out at the Dandenongs. I could definitely see myself living here for several more months, and perhaps after I get some travel out of my system I’ll come back!

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Malaysia Roundup

The Queen Victoria Clock Tower Memorial in George Town, Penang

The Queen Victoria Clock Tower Memorial in George Town, Penang

I spent only 9 days in Malaysia – all in George Town – and spent an average of $28 per day. As I’m at the end of my year-long trip through three continents, I was quite tired and didn’t do much except eat and ogle street art. It was also really, uncomfortably hot in George Town, so I didn’t have much energy to see tourist spots like Monkey Island or Penang Hill. It was a nice week, though, as I had time to plan for my time at home and also get myself ready for my work and holiday year in Australia, which will commence in May!

I would love to go back to Malaysia one day, particularly to go scuba diving off Borneo or the Perhentian Islands. I have to save something for the future, right?

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The Workshops and Silk Farm of Artisans Angkor

A woman turning silkworm cocoons into silk threads at the Artisans Angkor silk farm

A woman turning silkworm cocoons into silk threads at the Artisans Angkor silk farm

Besides the Angkor Archaeological Park, a main attraction in Siem Reap is the workshops and silk farm of Artisans Angkor. The organization recruits young people from rural areas in Cambodia to create traditional Khmer crafts for sale. It is free to visit both the workshops and the silk farm, and both are worth the time. The silk farm in particular is a valuable experience, as you learn how silk products are made from start to finish. You can’t help but leave with an appreciation for the tedious, time-consuming craft!

Of course in both the workshops and the silk farm there is a gift shop where you can purchase the crafts and support the organization.

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