Franz Josef glacier // New Zealand - part ii

Seeing as we didn’t manage to go for a glacier walk while we were in Iceland, Wenkai’s dad suggested that we add it into our New Zealand schedule. 

We did some simple googling prior to the trip and realised that glacier walks required a helicopter ride, which was a bit over our budget. In the end, we settled on a walk to the foot of the glacier.

surrounding mountains and glacier, humans for scale

a piece of broken off glacier in the foreground

We’d seen that it was a four-hour drive from Wanaka, where we were staying. I don’t think we were quite prepared for how long the journey actually was, so handy tip if you’re travelling far for something scheduled, leave at least 45 minutes in advance because sometimes road conditions may also slow you down!

But we made it. Just in time. Our guide, Jessica, was really friendly and provided us with a lot of background and information on the place we were visiting. We’d thought it was just the foot of a glacier we were visiting - turns out that there was so much more. 


What’s unique about the Franz Josef glacier is essentially its existence - it’s close to both a rainforest (yes, you read that correctly) and the ocean. It was the rainforest we tracked through before coming out onto the rocky path where the glacier once existed hundreds of years ago. After every few metres, there were sign posts on where the glacier last was. It was obvious how much it had shrank due to climate change. 

Jessica pointed out a large rock that were roughly the size of two trucks in the distance. ‘Some of the first people who walked on this glacier climbed onto that rock, then went down the other side to land on top of the glacier,’ she told us. It sounded fun. All that laid around that large rock now were dry, dusty rock. 

red-coloured algae where the glacier last was many years ago, and the glacier in the distance

She also showed us how the red stuff covering some rocks we could see were actually indicators of when the glacier was last seen around the area. These ‘green algae’ (that were red in colour) would be the first to appear in spots where the glacier stopped forming. After that came small shrubs, then small trees. I listened in fascination, never having known that what I’d have always photograph as “pretty textures” would have such a practical use.

the Alpine Fault - where earthquakes begin

star-filled night sky

After the hike, we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Alice May. The food was good; would recommend it if you happen to be around that area. We then made another 4-hour drive back, the most of it being in the dark and trying not to run over both live and dead possums or other roadkills. 


wanaka // New Zealand - part I

My memories of New Zealand - having visited the country several times as a child - is of a country with some of the most beautiful scenery and the clearest fresh (and sea) water. Visiting it again more than ten years later hasn’t changed anything.

airbnb garden

lake wanaka

I hadn’t been sure of this trip. I was trying to sort out my finances and wasn’t sure that this was the best for my pocket. It was, however, for the wedding of Wenkai’s cousin. In the end, my heart caved in. It’s hard to turn down the thought of seeing Kiwiland again. 

crystal clear lake

vintage car spotting

gelato for sunny days

tiny local boutique

We transited in Melbourne before flying directly to Queenstown. Before our plane landed, we flew through the most amazing mountain landscapes. I’m not clear about the details, but Wenkai’s brother explained to us that they have some technology that doesn’t require the pilot to see. It can be the cloudiest day and they’ll literally be able to land blind


Flights always feel abysmally long to me. After waking up at 3am for two days straight to catch flights, I’d imagine the journey would’ve felt like 3 minutes if I slept through it - but it didn’t. Nevertheless, I found myself stepping off the plane into a valley surrounded by mountains. I can’t remember landing to a more stunning scene, and tried to take it all in.

what a venue for a wedding

cheese banquet

The wedding was on the next day. A bus picked us up and took us through fields and across lakes before finally winding up through a small forest-esque setting on a hill. Atop that hill was a quaint brick house that opened up to a garden overlooking Lake Hawea - one of the two lakes around Wanaka.


The ceremony was short and sweet. Everyone commented on the venue and I finally met the bride and groom - who were very lovely. The children played ping pong, yelling and selecting who they wanted (or didn’t want to) play with; built bridges to balance on with large wooden bricks and knocked the same structures down. 


As the sunset, the mountain range across the lake was bathed in soft golden light and I forgot all the reasons why I hadn’t wanted to go in the first place. 


hong kong


Due to a series of circumstances, I was selected to go to Hong Kong for a regional conference. I’d initially been slightly disappointed, seeing that Hong Kong was not my favourite place and being chosen brought along its bout of drama, but I didn’t have much say in the matter and figured that the experience of attending the conference and meeting people from around the region could be beneficial. 


I’d been to Hong Kong and never understood the appeal. There was always too many people, too much concrete and not enough trees, and I wasn’t even a fan of their food no matter how many people told me they loved it. 

This time, I went with an eye influenced by being in the retail industry. And that was how I saw it. The stunning window displays with 3-D figurines and strong concepts that matched the brands; the overwhelming persistence of their outdoor advertising; and the best of all - the efficiency of their public transportation system that allowed most of the population to commute by foot. I know how it’s a city after all, but it was figuratively speaking, quite a breath of fresh air. 



I know how often this is said, but travel really is the best way to open our eyes. You could talk about improving and brainstorming for years of end, but sometimes it’s being somewhere else in person that grows a mindset. 

On the same note, travelling has a huge carbon footprint and tourists can really ruin places, so I’d just like to put out a gentle reminder to be aware of your actions - there’s nothing worse than littering or actively going against advice like not touching certain fragile organisms or acting like a goon when you “represent” your country when travelling. 



That’s me for now. Enjoy the photos I took with my phone.


whale-watching in Iceland

Our trip to Iceland was almost a year ago and I have so little written memory about it, especially this – whale-watching. I’m not sure how, but sometimes in the wake of wild nature, something seems to awaken within us. And this was one of those experiences. 

On our last night in Akueryri, we had the option of going for a dip in the hot springs or whale-watching. I didn’t have a particular preference at that time, but I’m glad that we ended up heading out on sea by the end of the day. 

My memory on the details are slightly foggy by now, but I remember that we bought the tickets, went and ate dinner, before heading back out to the pier. It was around 9pm then, but of course, the light in these photos deceive as it was summer in Iceland – the sun set around midnight and bounced back up by 3am. 

We found the boat; a small-ish boat with lots of charm and a chatty captain. He explained the name on the hull –Askell Egilsson– saying that in his family, they technically switched the first and last names around throughout generations. It meant that his father was Askell Egilsson, him Egilsson Askell, and his son, Askell Egilsson again. Icelanders take their father’s first names as their last, as we had learned. 

We’d been watching the sea, eager to spot any signs of a whale. As the boat drew towards the mouth of the bay, we began to grow impatient, but were reassured that we would see them as soon as the waters were deeper. 

I missed the first few whales that were spotted. Someone would see something and shout, but when I turned around, all I heard was a leftover hiss and splash of water. 

Then I spotted my first whale. I know from the pictures that they look mostly like dark lumps, but seeing the grace and agility of creatures that are known as the largest animals that currently inhabit earth was something that incredible. I watched, mesmerised, as each new group surfaced and took a fresh new breath before diving back down to feed. 

It seemed that I could never tire of watching them. Our boat drew closer to a group of whales and they turned the engine off, so that we were left with a peaceful silence in the middle of the sea. The boat bobbed gently above the water where the whales went along with their routine. They told us that we could estimate when the next resurfacing was – eat, surface, breathe, dive, eat. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in that moment and tried to hold on to every memory I could. 

It was late at night when we arrived back at shore. The sun was just setting as we drove back to our cabin and I snapped photos of it along the dirt road that we ran through. 

There were so many times during that month of travel where I reminded myself of how all of these were going to end, where I’d soon have to return to a daily grind to earn my living. But in Akueryri, living in a cabin on a hill overlooking a bay and going out to watch creatures I never imagined would take my breath away, I truly felt like it was where my life had peaked. 


mortar

Soft flows and hard lines; a mix of life’s essence and how we come to make the best of them all. Here’s a little series photos I took of Nicole a few weeks ago. 

The last time Nicole and I shot was two years ago, and the photos from that shoot remain one of my top favourites till this day. Since then, we’d talked about making plans, but somehow they always fell through. A few weeks ago, we finally managed to secure a date and I went over to her apartment where we shot with what we could find there. 

Stay tuned for part ii!


The Iceland waterfall hunt

Before I’d even dreamt of planning a trip to Iceland, I’d came across a million photos of this alien land on Instagram with some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes I’d ever seen. One feature besides its landscapes stood out – the waterfalls. 

When I found out that I was indeed going to visit Iceland, I looked up the places of these natural beauties. As expected, my version of the itinerary was mostly waterfalls. And even though I had pretty high expectations from all the photos I’d seen, experiencing them in person brought about another level of awe. 

So I thought I’d compile a quick guide to visiting as many waterfalls as you can for a week’s trip to Iceland. 

One quick tip before I start: 

It sounds obvious, but many of us didn’t seem to realise that visiting a waterfall meant getting wet. That being said, it does depend on how close you want to get to the fall, but most of the time, to fully experience it (like the one with a cave that you could walk through behind it) meant going as close as you could.

So bring a good raincoat or wear a waterproof coat. Your shoes will most likely get wet too, so if you can, buy a good pair of waterproof/water resistant hiking boots.  A change of clothes in the car would be good too. And if possible, try to schedule the waterfall visits towards the end of the day, so if you did get wet, you wouldn’t have to remain uncomfortable for the next few stops. 

I visited Iceland in the height of summer and even then, it was around 10 degrees Celcius and being wet meant you felt a lot colder. Don’t let that spoil your trip. 

Now let’s start with the fun stuff. 

The map above provides a summary of the waterfalls I visited. 

We scheduled our trip around two main cities – Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) and Akureyri (the biggest town in North Iceland). These were the two places where we had booked our accommodation and made day trips out from. 

We spent the first five nights in Reykjavik. On our first day out, we drove all the way to the black sand beach at Vik, making a few pit stops at scenic areas along the way. This included two waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.

Seljalandsfoss 

A total mouthful, especially for those of us who don’t speak Icelandic, and also one of the most unique waterfalls in the world as it has a cave behind it that you can actually walk through. Which meant that you had the chance of seeing the back of the waterfall without being crushed to oblivion. 

We made the mistake of visiting it first, because (1) it was honestly my most favourite waterfall of the trip and in the whole world and (2) walking through that cave was drenching business which left us all mostly damp throughout the rest of the day. 


After Seljalandsfoss, we headed to arguably one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland: 

Skogafoss

Known for the ground of pitch black sand below it, it also meant that other tourists standing in their brightly coloured coats stood out like sore thumbs. Which probably explains why I hardly took any photos there. I’ve seen so many fantastic photos taken at Skogafoss by photographers I admire that it seemed weird that I felt oddly uninspired at this particular one.  


Gullfoss 

Using the weather forecast as reference, we scheduled the Golden Circle for the second day. In short, the Golden Circle is the most popular sightseeing route in Iceland, especially for those with limited time. Having said that, it is also the most touristy part of Iceland. 

Our waterfall of the day was Gullfoss. Apparently it’s well-known for the rainbows created from the spray, but our day was gloomy as evident in the photos below, so there were no rainbows for us. 

Besides Gullfoss, we actually had another waterfall planned out for our Golden Circle route – Bruarfoss. We made our way there, driving through narrow, pothole-ridden dirt roads, parked our car and walked a little way to find nothing until we met a couple who informed us that the bridge to get to Bruarfoss had fallen. So it was back through the bumpy, dusty roads onto the next location for us. 

   

Akureyri 

We had split our Iceland trip into two parts; the second part being living in its largest town up north for a few (absolutely dreamiest) nights. 

From Akureyri, we also had the pleasure of visiting three waterfalls. 

Godafoss

According to modern myth, the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði decided to give up their pagan religion in favour of Christianity in the year 1000. Having done so, he returned and threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall, thus giving it the name “the waterfall of the gods”. This was one of my favourite back stories, more so because it was interesting rather than my agreement of his decision. 

But look at those falls! 

And then, there was  

Dettifoss 

If you made it to here, I’m glad you enjoyed this post because it was impossible for me to get sick of seeing more waterfalls. Each waterfall, although they seemed to be more or less the same, held up their own strength and magnificence. But Dettifoss – Dettifoss is officially known as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. And the people who gave it that title weren’t kidding when they named it. 

Notice the scale of the people on the opposite bank.

This short clip gives you a glimpse at the power of Dettifoss: 


Selfoss 

Selfoss was the baby we visited right after the giant of Dettifoss, mostly because it was within walking distance. We had to cross some rocky, moon-like terrain to get there, but there were proper trails so that was fine. 

Not such a big deal after all the previous ones, isn’t it? 


And that concludes my post on the waterfall hunt. 

A quick note before I end. If you have been planning to visit Iceland, you may have read that despite its beauty, certain places as well as its weather can be pretty dangerous at times. That is, death has happened because of carelessness or unwillingness of tourists to obey safety precautions. I personally witness tourists walking out of designated trails to the edge of dangerous sites; one girl slipped under the string that acted as a border to sit on a slippery rock at the very edge of Dettifoss, causing me to panic internally on her behalf. She returned safely, but a slight slip of the foot could have sent her hundreds of feet down into that treacherous, pounding water – refer to the video clip I attached again! 

I may sound longwinded now and you might say it’s just all for a good bit of fun, but please don’t be that idiot that falls and dies, which then causes local authorities to block future visitors from seeing an otherwise beautiful place. Be respectful and enjoy the view from a safe place. 


That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the photos and the read! 

For more photos, visit #miniversetravels on Instagram :) 


20 hours to Galway

I had always wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher. It may seem strange, how we humans can be fascinated by some rocks by the sea, but I believe that it’s the grandeur in it that draws us there.  

However, I was also on a tight budget and so I coaxed myself into thinking it wasn’t necessary. I was going into Belfast, and would be visiting Iceland after that – surely that would be enough? But when I looked up bus tickets from Belfast to Galway, I found that it would only cost around £30. I had to transit in Dublin, but the price tag had me convinced. 

It was a mad journey. I woke up at 3am in Malaysia on the 29th of June, took an hour’s flight to KLIA, then boarded another 13+ hour one to London. I stayed in Heathrow Airport for the night before taking the earliest flight to Belfast the next morning. It was 9am when I arrived at my boyfriend’s place to drop my luggages. By 11am, I was at the bus station with some packed food and began another 5 hour bus ride to Galway. 

The Cliffs of Moher

Windy country roads

Streets of Galway

Sunset in the countryside

As you can see from the photos, I made it there in one piece. It was the longest journey I’d ever made so far and I surprised myself by being totally okay with it. 

My boyfriend picked me up with his parents in Galway. In the car they’d rented, we visited several Irish towns. I was slightly concerned that when I saw the Cliffs of Moher, they would just be some rocky cliffs and I’d wonder why I had made such a long journey for it, but that never happened. The wind whipped our hair around till our coats were all we could use for identification, but the cliffs stood straight and tall in their unassuming grandeur. 

After a full day out, we then headed to an Irish pub for dinner. Till this day, my bf’s mum still swears that Guinness never tastes as good as that in Ireland. 


30 days of black & white – part ii

Ahhh, it took me a few weeks to hit publish on this because life happens. But here’s the second part of my 30 days of Black and White series.  

Hunstanton beach

Marble Hall, Norwich

Big City

The Pantheon, Paris

Looking up in The Pantheon, Paris

Cow Bell shed, Switzerland

Details, Paris

Dutch Cheese-Making Farm, Holland

Cows are friends

The Hive in Kew Gardens, London

Crypts, Paris

Looking up in The Pantheon, Paris

See them on Instagram


30 days of black & white – part i

Cliffs of Moher from the cafe (Ireland)

Titanic Museum (Belfast)

View of the habour from a cruise ship (Penang)

Queen’s University (Belfast)

Skogafoss (Iceland)

Streets of Galway (Ireland)

Seljalandsfoss (Iceland)

Hallgrímskirkja (Iceland)

Flowers in the city (Iceland)

Spiral staircase in Perlan (Iceland)

Specimens (Iceland)

Dettifoss (Iceland)

Gullfoss (Iceland)

Corridor of centuries (Norwich)

Textures upon textures and a ship in the distance (Iceland)

Abandoned pizza place (Norfolk)

Somewhere towards the end of June, Syam and I were talking and just spontaneously decided to do a photo challenge. We decided that black and white photos would give us the flexibility and 30 days was an ideal length. And so it began. 

I happened to be travelling during the month of July, which made it both a blessing and a curse; the blessing being able to take a variety of photos – even knowing that the whole point of the challenge was to find something interesting in everyday’s mundane, but being on the move certainly helped – and the curse being the effort to keep up with posting everyday. 

But enough talking. If you haven’t seen it on Instagram, I’m sharing it in 2 parts here. Enjoy! 


quiet love

My love is honey tongue.
Dandelion wine in a pitcher.
Thirsty love. 
My love licks it’s fingers
before it has even fed.
My love is peach juice 
dripping down the neck.
Too much sugar love.
Cavity love. Toothache,
tummy ache love.
Soft hands holding the
jaw open love.
Summer love. Sticky sweet,
sticky sweat love.
My love can’t ride a bike.
My love walks everywhere.
Wanders through the river.
Feeds the fish, skips the stones.
Barefoot love.
My love stretches itself out on
the grass, kisses a nectarine.
My love is never waiting.
My love is a traveller,
a fruit-eater, a holder.
My love is alive. Warm.
It lives.
It breathes.
 

— Caitlyn SiehlWarm after  “Love, Gravity, and Other Forces” by Anita Ofokansi


-♡- 


Darlings in love: Claire and Zac (also as @islandears on Instagram) 

Let me shoot your engagement! Drop me a message here

Using Format