Today was the big wedding day. While my sister was busy with her bridemaids and flower girls getting ready, we took her dog, Dudley, for a walk. She had adopted him from some friends when he was 13 months old and he hadn't had any formal training, so had a bit of a mind of his own and was prone to misbehaving and chasing other dogs and cats on a whim while ignoring pleas for him to stop! Hence she had gotten him a shock collar in case he misbehaved.
The collar came with a remote with three buttons, one for an audible beep, another which made the collar vibrate and a third button for 'final resort' which would send a few volts through him. I tested the shock button on myself and it was defintiely unpleasant! Luckily on our walk he was well behaved though, and we only used the beeper button when he kept sniffing another dogs butt.
Mum and Dad dressed up for the big day, waiting for our ride to the wedding venue.
Dad had organised a big bus to collect everyone and transport them to the wedding venue out in the country.
My sister Annie entering the Chapel with Mum and Dad (the following three photographs are from the official wedding photographer).
The wedding chapel was quite a cool, intimate venue with beautiful stained glass windows featuring New Zealand native birds.
And a group family photo with the new bride and groom.
My sister with two of her girls, Zara and Peyton.
The official wedding photographer was only present up until the ceremony and after drinks, so I was drafted in to take a few photo's of the reception.
Dan, the groom, giving his speech with both amusing anecdotes and heartfelt thanks for both family and friends.
Rianda with the complimentary bouquet of flowers!
The kids getting their fish and chips. Niece's Maeve, Peyton and Zara on the top-right.
The bride and groom enjoying the first dance.
The flower girls boogying down with the band! The band played some cool music, both new and old, including some Kiwi classics from Dave Dobbyn and Dragon which I hadn't heard in quite a while.
Zara having fun on the dance floor.
From left, Glenn, Dan's (the groom) brother, my sister Annie, myself, Rianda and, my sister Victoria and her husband, Steve. After a great night catching up with family and friends and celebrating the wedding of Annie and Dan, we headed home just after midnight.
After sleeping in, myself and Rianda borrowed Mum's little Suzuki and drove the ~70 kilometres to the town of Rotorua to catch up with some friends, Ken and Emma. I hadn't seen them in over 2 years since my last visit to New Zealand so was great catching up again.
In the afternoon we went for a walk in the nearby Redwoods at Whakarewarewa forest. A great way to get out for some fresh air and exercise.
At the top of hill which had views of Rotorua as well as being a good spot for a MacDonald family portrait.
And a photo of myself and Rianda courtesy of Ken.
After crashing at Ken and Emma's for the night, we farewelled them as they headed off for work and took the kids to school, and then headed to a local café for cake and coffee for breakfast.
For my belated birthday gift, Mum had organised a trip to Hell's Gate, Rotorua's most active geothermal area. One of the signs below said that anyone caught throwing rubbish into the boiling hot springs may be asked to retrieve it!
Kakahi Falls, the largest natural hot water fall in the southern hemisphere. This was supposedly where Maori warriors bathed to salve their battle wounds and remove the 'tapu' of war.
The last time I had visited Hell's Gate was when I was 8 years old when my grandmother from the UK had come out to New Zealand, and it was cool to visit again ~30 years later.
Mum had also organised a private mud bath for us both. Very romantic!
The warm mud was apparently good for the skin too.
The next stop on our Rotorua tour was Whakarewarewa. Our guide had a long Maori name but told us to just call her Girly.
Part of the tour was a Maori concert. At the end the ladies and men launched into a fearsome haka.
I definitely wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of this guy!
And Rianda posing for a photo with her new Kiwi friends.
It was close to 3pm at this stage so we headed to Burger Fuel, a Kiwi burger chain, for a late lunch. Rianda had the 'Bastard' burger with NZ grass fed beef, melted cheddar, bacon, beetroot, juicy mango and avocado while I had the 'Blue Velvet' burger with grilled free range venison, puhoi creamy blue cheese and blackcurrant & red onion preserve.
It was interesting comparing the menu to the slightly sanitised Burger Fuel menu I normally use in Dubai. A 'Bastard' burger is called a 'Monster' burger in Dubai, and of course real bacon in New Zealand versus beef and chicken 'bacon' in Dubai.
After driving back to Cambridge, we headed to my sister Victoria's place for a family dinner. Nephew Stanley and niece Maeve having fun with the toys.
And a big smile for the camera!
Jenna and Cooper, my sisters two golden retreivers mobbing Dad for some attention and affection.
Annie and Dan were headed off to the beach at Whangamata for a few days, so we caught up with them for brunch at a café in town.
Stanley having a snooze while keeping a firm grip on my thumb.
In the afternoon we took George, the family dog for a walk. He is almost 14 years old and although showing his age, he still managed to walk at a decent pace around the park.
With his age, this was very likely the last trip back to New Zealand where I would get to see him again and take him for a walk, so it was great to get some final photo's of him having fun in the park.
Another lazy day on vacation in New Zealand. It was raining quite heavily today so we couldn't do much outside so we went out with Mum and Dad to see the new indoor velodrome that had been recently built in Cambridge.
Quite an impressive cycling venue and the only one in New Zealand.
And getting a cappuccino and a quinoa & beetroot chocolate brownie at the velodrome café. Definitely an interesting combination of ingredients for the brownie but still very tasty!
Dinner was at home where Mum cooked up some roast pork with sour cream sauce and roast vegetables.
Our second to last day in New Zealand so we drove to the town of Te Aroha and went for a hike in the Kaimai Range.
A bit wetter than Borneo and a bit more mud.
It was great to get out and about in the lush native New Zealand forest though.
And at the top of the 952-metre Mount Te Aroha, the tallest peak in the Kaimai Range. The trek up from ~50 metres elevation took us just under 2 hours. On the way down we took a slightly longer route, arriving back at the bottom in 3 hours.
For dinner we went to a local restaurant called Palate in the nearby city of Hamilton with Mum & Dad and Vic & Steve.
For the entrée myself and Rianda shared the (top) duck breast with seared scallop, compressed persimmon, cauliflower & fennel purée and the (bottom) seared tuna with spiced calamari, papaya, radish and chilli jam.
And for the main we had the (top) silere lamb rump with roasted yams, pea purée, tomato & vadouvan spices and the (bottom) seared venison with white polenta, sweetcorn, pickled beetroot, cherry purée & anise jus and a side of duck fat chips with garlic mayonniase.
And after our second mountain climb we thought we definitely deserved some dessert and had the (top) vanilla créme brûlée with strawberry sorbet & biscotti and the (bottom) milk chocolate mousse with peanut brittle, brûléed banana and salted caramel ice cream.
While not cheap at about $NZ780 for the six of us, it was a very tasty meal that left you very satisfied but not overly full.
Our final day in New Zealand. Our flight to Singapore didn't depart until 11:55pm tonight from Auckland so we had the whole day.
In the morning we went to the beautiful Hamilton Gardens with Mum. It was my first time going and was quite nice to walk around and visit the different styles they had. At the Indian gardens.
In the Japanese gardens.
A tree climbing a wall in the Italian gardens.
A Kumara, or sweet potato patch with a traditional Māori whare in the New Zealand section.
I then took Rianda to enjoy a local New Zealand delicacy, a steak and cheese Georgie pie from the local McDonalds.
In the afternoon we took George for one last walk, and then went to pick up the three niece's from school and bought them ice creams at the local corner shop.
In the evening we went out to my sister's place out in the country. Peyton introducing us to their two goats, Jimmy & Dean.
Peyton, Maeve and Zara giving their iDevices a good workout.
Mum putting some homemade pizza's in the oven for dinner while the golden retrievers and a large dog / small horse called Jonty keep a close watch. Sadly a few weeks later, Jenna, the golden retriever closest to Rianda in this photo, ran up to the car as Steve and the kids arrived home one afternoon. In her excitement to see them she collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack.
After saying farewell to Vic, Steve and the niece's, Mum & Dad drove us up to Auckland airport. We managed to print out our boarding passes and suitcase tags at the kiosks but had a bit of trouble at the automated luggage machines. Our check-in allowance was 2 x 23kgs and discretion to take up to 32 kgs. We had just one suitcase that was 27 kgs so thought we would be fine, but the machine warned us our suitcase was too heavy and refused to load it. One of the attendants came along and said we would have to repack to two bags. He quickly relented though and overode the system, but warned us we would have to pay $200 excess baggage next time unless we kept to the 23 kg limit.
We then had a coffee with Mum & Dad before saying farewell at the end of another trip back home to NZ.
We went through immigration and bought a few souvenirs for friends back in Dubai. At the gate they announced a ~30 minute delay as there was torrential rain outside and they were having problems with water leaking through the gap between the jet bridge and the open door of the plane. They finally announced that the engineers had been able to fix the situation with a little duct tape which made everyone have a bit of a giggle!
Our friends who were also at the wedding were on the same flight with us to Singapore, on their way to Europe for a vacation and to catch up with family, and it was good to catch up with them while we waited to board.
Just after boarding on the relatively new Boeing 787-9. It was my first time flying Air New Zealand in over 10 years so was a bit of a thrill.
Kia ora, the Maori greeting on the IFE.
Dinner was served soon after our slightly delayed departure.
And followed by white chocolate and raspberry ice cream for dessert.
Watching the 1980's Australian thriller Dead Calm with Billy Zane, Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill. We then got some sleep on the ~10 hour flight after they dimmed the lights.
A beautiful sunrise as we got closer to Singapore.
Egg, beans and sausage for breakfast.
And a cup of Joe to wake me up for our ~14 hour stopover in Singapore.
After clearing immigration and storing our suitcase we headed down to catch the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) into the city to Tiong Bahru.
In Tiong Bahru we headed to a local hawker centre for some breakfast. My friend used to live in Singapore and loved heading to one of the hawker centres for his daily lunch and had recommended a visit to one as part of our stopover.
Rianda queued up for the teochew dumplings while I got the fresh pork and prawn wanton mee. Together with two very large iced coffee's it was just under $S9 and it was the perfect start to our day!
~80% of resident households in Singapore live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments known as "HDB flats".
Goat. We then walked east through Tiong Bahru.
Tiong Bahru is also home to some of the first HDB flats that were built soon after the end of the second world war.
Outside Tiong Bahru market.
Currypuff and Roti Prata.
Lots of fresh fruit for sale.
We then walked further onto Chinatown.
Very touristy but a colourful and fun place to walk around.
The gopuram (entrance tower) at Sri Mariamman Temple. My first visit to Singapore was back in 1988 on my first overseas tip when I was just 10 years old. Despite the many changes since it was good to see a familiar sight from my very first trip.
We then caught the MRT down to the Marina Bay. It was my first trip to Singapore since the Marina Bay Sands had been built so it was great to see it for the first time.
At the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall and a welcome respite from the heat and humidity.
The Rain Oculus that resembled a continually emptying sink and is designed to function as a kinetic sculpture, skylight and waterfall. Quite a sight!
We then headed upstairs to the DC Comics Superhero café.
And enjoyed a Superman cupcake and a delicious Batman Sundae.
We then headed outside again to work off some of the overindulgence. Crossing over the stainless steel Helix Bridge to Marina South.
Looking over to the Singapore CBD.
As we were sitting on the steps, a family of 7-8 otters came swimming by and making lots of squeals. They eventually came ashore and started rolling around on some artificial grass at The Float at Marina Bay, and attracted quite a crowd of people oohing and ahhing.
We then walked back to the Marina Bay Sands and went up the public observatory deck to take in the 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline. Looking down at the Gardens by the bay.
The Singapore Flyer over on Marina South.
Looking down at the ArtScience Museum and The Float at Marina Bay.
And looking across to the Singapore CBD again.
We then headed down to the MRT again to catch a ride back to Changi Airport
Our flight to Doha wasn't until 9pm and although it was 5:30pm, the check-in counters were just opening so we were able to get our boarding passes and check our suitcase.
We then headed to one of the lounges and paid to have a nice hot shower and change into some clean clothes.
The lounge was right beside the butterfly garden so we couldn't resist going in and having a peek.
For dinner we headed to the Hard Rock Café for a couple of decent sized burgers with some diet coke and fries.
And at the gate waiting to board the QR A330 for the flight to Doha. We boarded 30 minutes late, and there was an additional delay of 30 minutes as we had missed our take-off slot. Quite a few people had connections in Doha so there was a bit of disconcernation.
Fried noodles soon after departure but I didn't really eat them after the big burger from the Hard Rock Café I had had earlier.
On arrival at Doha there were several agents herding people to give them their new connections due to the delay. A guy was holding a sign saying "Dubai, Oman & Abu Dhabi" and we were told to wait with him. Our flight to Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) still had ~45 minutes to scheduled departure however but in my jetlagged state I just followed his instructions and waited with the rest of the passengers. After ~15 minutes of waiting he checked our boarding passes and realised we weren't going to DXB and said we could rush now to our gate! We then sprinted to the departure gate and luckily made the bus to our flight with minutes to spare.
Passing a QR A380 on the bus to our flight.
And about to board the Al-Maha A320 for the final flight home after a fun and very memorable vacation!