#2149 | Destination Chiang Mai

Whats up, guys. Reporting from Chiang Mai today, a place that has long been on my radar but that I somehow never got to go to. I was there in Feb filming a travel campaign for Klook and Tourism Authority of Thailand, and the destination video just launched this afternoon so I thought I’d pop in and add some notes of my own, for those of you planning a trip there! 🙂


Chiang Mai: In general

A lot of people describe Chiang Mai as a mini Bangkok, which I think is a totally unfair description – Chiang mai has a pretty strong character of its own that isnt derivative at all. There are so many things to adore about Chiang Mai – the vibrant old town, the cool weather (if you dont know why this is a plus point, you obviously have never been to singapore), the fact that a zillion natural wonders are totally accessible via car. When we were younger, Chiang mai used to be associated almost exclusively with OCIP programs and camps, but ever since then it’s gained a lot of global attention thanks to it being a featured movie location in the media, and has opened up to tourists everywhere. Still, it retains a sense that it’s an undiscovered gem (although trust me, it is very, very discovered already) while having the infrastructural benefits of a tourist destination, which gives you a best of both worlds kinda experience.

Chiang Mai: First things first – Things to note:

– Not a credit card friendly city at all, so bring cash.
– Many points of interest are located outside the city center, so if you get car sick easily, bring pills.
– Dress conservatively. That’s not to say that you have to wear long sleeved shirts everywhere, but it’s a pretty conservative city and you’re going to be weaving in and out of temples during your stay, so just be sure to have a cover up or something with you at all times.
– Always bring mosquito repellant. Don’t wait till you get there to buy it, it’s overpriced in Chiang Mai.
– Toothpaste in Chiang mai is SALTY! If you dont think you can handle this (if youre not used to it, it can be very strange), bring your own toothpaste.

Chiang Mai: Arriving

The airport is small, clean, and well located. It’s also a very scenic airport. Our return flight was during sunset, and it was just gorgeous because from the runway we could see the sun setting over the mountains in the distance.

You can and should pick up a SIM card from the airport. I didnt notice many wifi spots during my trip, so if you need to be connected, get a SIM card. For us, we had pre-booked an airport transfer, so the driver was waiting for us with pre-loaded SIM cards.


Chiang Mai: Getting around

Within Chiang Mai, you can walk or take a tuktuk/red truck (the price has to be pre-agreed on, and thus, haggled). Strangely, there are no traditional taxis or motorcycle taxis.

When we were there though, mobike had just launched! There was a Feb special too, like a promotion where the first twenty days were free or something, so we essentially biked everywhere FOR FREE. It was amazing. It was great alternative to walking or cabbing, especially when we were trying to get somewhere that was too far to comfortably stroll to yet too near to justify hopping into a tuktuk. The only thing is, as with all bike sharing services, the bikes are pretty basic, so the steering was a bit funky and I’d only suggest this if you’re relatively comfortable on a bike already.

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Had to take a selfie to commemorate the moment

Still, a great way to get around the city center!

If youre headed out of the city to waterfalls and the like, you can book an uber, a private car, or ghetto it out by going to the market and seeing if any other tourists want to share a van with you. But that’s only if you have time to spare lah, cos there is no guarantee of success for that method.

However, if you already know where you want to go, chances are you can get a tour that includes entry prices and the return transfer, and they probably can pick you from your hotel/accommodation too. This is actually very similar to booking a private driver and telling them which places I’d like to go to beforehand so they can advise me on whether it’s a feasible day plan or not, which is what I do in places like Bali. The advantage of doing it with a legitimised tour operator is that there’s a guarantee that the operator wont default on you, and also that you not only have the day planned out for you but access to feedback on the same tour via other customers in the comments section. I’m talking about Klook, obviously – they have a best price guarantee, and you can read reviews before booking anything. Then once you book it, it goes into your phone’s app and you can download it for offline and easy access. Technology for the win!


Chiang Mai: Things to do

I think the video actually covered Chiang Mai’s offerings super well. Everything we did was awesome. Watch it, is what I’m saying!

There were a couple of things we didnt get to do because of our tight schedules though, so if i were to return, I’d probably want to do a Mae Kampong Homestay and take a traditional thai cooking class!! We met some Americans on their retirement tour (they were all like, 60, and had biked across the length of thailand, putting us to absolute shame) and they said that their cooking class experience was revolutionary. I super want to take a cooking class but somehow have not had the chance yet. It’s on my list.

But yeah, if I return to Chiang Mai, i’d probably re-visit the elephant sanctuary. I think that was hands down the best thing I did on the trip; I’m probably going to write a post on it soon. 🙂


Chiang Mai: The Classics

As with many southeast asian destinations, there are really great night markets, massage parlours, and affordable bars around. If you just stroll down the river, you’ll see a ton of places that look interesting and that are buzzing with excited locals and tourists. But I do think that unlike Bangkok, youre not guaranteed great experiences whereever you go. I did have a pretty crappy thai massage on my first night, so I started googling and Yelping reviews the rest of the days, and I had great experiences the rest of the trip. Same with food – some places weren’t very good, and some places were amazing. This, along with the fact that so much of Chiang Mai lies outside the city, means that Chiang Mai is really a planned sorta destination – I probably wouldnt just show up and wing everything. Definitely, definitely pre-book your accommodation too, because if you show up and try to check into a random hotel/hostel you might just be turned away.


Chiang Mai: Unexpected hits

The two things I got that surprised me the most: aromatherapy oils and strawberries.

I’ve recently gotten pretty into aroma diffusers because they make your entire room smell like a legit spa, and I got my boyfriend one for christmas too. They really transform the entire vibe of your living space, but damn, those oils are expensive. Imagine, then, my delight when I discovered them selling mega cheap at every corner in chiang mai!!!!!

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different places selling aroma diffuser oils

Many of these stores sell ghetto bottled oils in a variety of scents, but if you’re unsure about getting it from pop up stores, there are plenty of local brands that make their own oils and have set up boutiques around town. I bought at least 20 bottles of essential oils whilst I was there. The prices ranged from about 60BHT for a small bottle to 250BHT for a big one. That’s like 6 to 10 SGD. In Singapore, these tiny bottles can cost up to eighty dollars, so, SCORE! is what I am saying.

It’s great that the bottles are so affordable. I was an idiot and forgot to bring mosquito repellant, so I bought a bottle of lemongrass essential oil and dabbed it on my pulse points everyday in chiang mai. Didn’t have much problems with mosquitoes after that. If you’re looking out for oils, I also recommend you get at least one bottle of moke flower oil, it’s special to Thailand and the locals are pretty proud of it. It has a pleasant, light scent, and is often used in thai spas.

Please note that not all oils can be used in an aroma diffuser, so let the shopkeeper know if youre buying it for your diffuser and they will point out which oils you should be looking at.

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Another sleeper hit from our trip were the amazingly sweet and cheap strawberries. I think strawberries are MAD expensive in singapore because they’re not native to our region, so seeing them go for 10BHT(40cents) was mind blowing to me. I got a cup and they were SO fresh and sweet, and in Chiang mai they also serve the strawberries with this interesting mix of salt, chilli flakes, and sugar, which sounds strange but is incredibly addictive. I bought another cup of strawberries for the road after this, and then bought a giant bag to bring home to Singapore.

Wrapping up

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All smiles at the White Temple, which is actually a privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. Whaaat? I visited this as part of a longer day tour, linked here.

Alright, I think that’s it for now! This post turned out way longer than I expected, I was actually just intending to share the video and then jot down some personal notes on the city. But I totally got carried away, which happens way too often these days, ha. More activity-specific posts from Chiang Mai to come, but till then, Sawasdee Krab x

x
Jem

#2147 | Seoul damned good – Noona Hol Dak Chicken

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Seoul, South Korea
All photos in this post taken on the Samsung S9

Is it totally excessive if my first post about Korea this year is about fried chicken? Is that terrible? Does it really matter? Here are the questions I preoccupy myself with, these days. Anyway, anyway. I just had to jot this down before time passes and weathers away the intensity of my current emotion, and I start to second guess myself and wonder if I really meant it when i thought one fine evening in myeong dong that it’s true, all that they say about knowing it’s love when you find it, like how after six trips to seoul i have finally found and fallen in love with the best fried chicken i have ever had in korea.

The name is Noona Hol Dak Oven Chicken and Beer, and the game is oven baked crispy chicken. Martin and I were wandering the streets of korea looking for a quick dinner so we could get back to work, it was an unfocused sort of wondering, guided by a general trust in the infallible quality of korean food. We were talking about something idealistic and dreamy, like how this trip was kind of exactly like what our future lives would be like if we moved abroad for work and became housemates – meals together, and then working on our individual projects silently in each other’s company. We were marvelling in the delights of adult friendships that weren’t bound by institutionalised obligations (school, work); the pure joy of comfortable companionship. We looked up and found ourselves in front of Noona Hol Dak.

Noona means older sister in Korean he said, with a sense of epiphany.
I said, Maybe this is like one of those themed maid cafes in Japan and some noona will give us chicken

We giggled like kids, we went in.

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Super bustling place even though it was past prime dinnertime

The place was buzzing, tipsy korean businessmen were shouting happily at noisy sorority girls, office ladies were trying to get the server’s attention, some kid was looking for the ketchup tray. And above all, the crackling of fried chicken skin being bitten into, everywhere. Martin turned to me: this place looks amazing. I nodded, taking credit for the place as if I made the chicken myself: thanks, I know.

We ordered the most basic thing on the menu, a plate of boneless crispy chicken to share. I had a beer, as I do. Martin had a coke after trying to ask for a coke zero and giving up after failing to communicate exactly what a coke zero was. No one in Korea knows what coke zero is, he complained, normal coke is so unhealthy and I stared at him. Martin, I said, we’re in a fried chicken joint.

More ineffectual conversation that I don’t remember, etcetera etcetera. If we had said anything of importance in between ordering our food and it’s arrival, neither of us remember the details: everything was overshadowed by the arrival of the chicken, which was squarely planted on our table by a korean uncle (there goes the noona concept). I took a bite and I think I blanked out for a bit. When I remembered where I was, we were already halfway though the plate. I’m confused, I said, with reverence, by how ridiculously good this is. Martin didn’t reply: he was chowing down.

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national jewel of korea

It’s hard for me to explain why food is so good when it is. I have a million and one ways to complain about bad food, but when it’s good, I’m usually just stunned into silence. I dont know the specifics of food science, I dont know what makes it specifically good. For this dish, it might have been just the fact that something so simple was so damned well done. The chicken was juicy and tender, the skin was crisp and cracklin. The fact that it was baked gave it the illusion of being healthier than straight up fried chicken (though i have my doubts about the truth of this hypothesis), and after we were done with the meal, neither of us felt stuffed nor guilty. We left the restaurant feeling pretty proud of ourselves, in fact, for having a satisfying meal that wasn’t excessively filling.

I’ve had fried chicken in korea before, obviously, but for some reason I have never been rendered this speechless by a plate of chicken. I have spent the past few hours wondering on and off why I was so impressed by this: I think perhaps it is because it hits the sweet spot between incredible food and a good price point (if it were a hundred dollar meal, would I feel the same way? Who knows – but I suspect my own principles won’t allow me to ever pay a hundred bucks for fried chicken). The entire meal – oven fried chicken, a beer, a coke, cost a total of 23,000 won. Writing that down now, I feel an unreasonable sense of pride, I am so pleased with myself for paying essentially twelve singapore dollars for my share of a damned good meal. Am I hyping this up too much? Am I setting everyone else up for disappointment? Doesn’t matter right now – in this current narrative, the best chicken I’ve ever had still blows my mind. Yum, essentially. Yum and yum.

누나홀닭 명동점 Noona Hol Dak Oven Chicken & Beer
Seoul, Jung-gu, Namdaemun-ro, 78 SK 명동 빌딩 1 층

x
Jem

#2146 | Dream Dinner Destinations: Camp Meating, Chiang Mai


Camp Meating, Chiang Mai

Hey guys,

I don’t use facebook much, but when I do, I get super lucky. Camp Meating popped up on my facebook feed a couple of weeks ago, one of those re-shared photo albums with an attached comment from an acquaintence, something along the lines of, omg, goals, ded, etcetera. Normally, I would have browsed and forgotten all about it, but as it happens I had just gotten booked for a travel campaign in Chiang Mai with Klook and Tourism Authority of Thailand. I cross-checked it against my itinerary and realised we had no scheduled dinner plans, so a hop and a call later, we found ourselves booked in at Camp Meating for our last dinner in Chiang Mai!

Despite the name, Camp Meating isn’t actually a glamping location nor an accomodation option. It’s a weekend outdoor dining experience styled like a glamping site, which is why the entire place looks so dreamy. When I ran a search on it online, many reviews mentioned that it was a hidden gem, but I didn’t realise they meant it quite so literally. As it was, getting there was an ordeal. Located half an hour by car from Chiang Mai city in the Mae Rim district, I 100% suggest you get a taxi or uber, or if you have a car, drive. I cant even begin to imagine what it would have been like if we’d tried to tackle it by public transport. We booked an uber that flat out refused to take us (are they allowed to do that?!) because it was too far, and then we got another uber which struggled to find the location. On Google Maps it actually pins the place as Unnamed Road, which as you can imagine, is pretty worrying. It’s buried deep in the recesses of what looks like a miliary camp, and driving in, you’re constantly like, is this correct?? Well, it is. And when we tried to get an uber home afterwards, the driver asked us to give her an extra tip because the drive in was so scary and dark (we gave her 150Baht extra). So yeah, it’s not easy to get it. But I think the isolation of the place is half of what makes it so incredible once you do get there.

Aside: We paid about 170BHT to get there by uber, and gave an extra 40BHT as a tip. Then the ride back was 180BHT, with an additional 150BHT tip.

The place is buried so deep in the foilage that we only realised we’d reached when we were about five meters from the entrance. Once we got out of the car, we could the faint sounds of old school American swing music drifting towards us, and see the glow of lights somewhere down the road. As we walk towards it, the foilage suddenly cleared up, and suddenly I forgot all about how difficult it was to get there. Because, look at this:

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GORGEOUS

INSANE. IN-SANE! I heard a gasp then realised it came from me. Before I could start to feel embarassed I realised my companions all had their mouths open too. It was just so damned magical, it was like it emerged from the pages of a storybook. Lights everywhere, lakeside tables, and the smell of barbeque, all to the background soundtrack of American swing music. Someone designed this experience and designed it well.

We had reached just as the sun was about to set, because of our filming schedule for the day as well as the delays in getting a ride there. So we’d missed golden hour, but we caught the last vestiges of dusk. It was so, so beautiful. As we made our way to our table, we were handed vouchers for the different food stations, and then left to take pictures and explore before starting our dinner. After we’d finished a round of exploring the campsite, the server magically reappeared and started explaining how the dinner worked. Each table came with its own cook, like a personal chef. You could go to three different stations to get your food: the main tent for your main dish and sides, a bar counter, and the smokehouse, for sausages and bacon. The sides and smokehouse were unlimited, and dinner came with a standard chunk of pork and a welcome drink (punch or water), with the option to upgrade to beef or lamb for 500BHT more.

Pictures from the area!

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Snippets from the main station, located in a giant tent!

The set up is super cute. At the main tent, you get a little basket which you can fill with sides – sliced bread, chips, different kinds of veggies like asparagus, capsicum, corn, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and baked potatoes. You can also collect your main meat there – Mabel and I stuck to the original pork option, and Lock upgraded his to a beef steak. Then you season your food the way you like it – there’s a table with a bunch of herbs and spices you can use, and if you dont know what to do, the staff are on hand to help you. Then you hand it to the staff and they take it to your table to barbeque for you!

The drink station lets you have water or punch for free as a welcome drink, and you pay extra for anything else you want. Soft drinks are an additional 40BHT, and I got a hoegarden, which was 160BHT. Super pricey for thai standards, especially since in the city center you can get a beer easily for 50BHT. But, yknw, it’s still cheaper than Singapore so I still went for it anyway.

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Drink station, but the punch was nearly all gone by the time we got there cos we were so late!

And the smokehouse station is literally a little smokehouse where sausages and thick cut bacon strips are slowly being smoked. When you go to this station, they fill a little wooden tray of sausages and bacon for you, and you can head back to your table and have it while waiting for the rest of your food to cook.

Your table’s personal chef starts cooking once you’re ready, and everything goes in – ours chopped and roasted our veggies, did our steaks of meat perfectly, and even buttered and toasted our bread slices for us! After she’s done she kind of just goes back to chill at one of the stations, so I assume if you need more help you can either ask her again or do it yourself. We were super stuffed just from whatever we had though, so we didnt go for round two, I cant imagine how hungry you have to be to get a sausage and bacon refill because it’s just so much food. But the option is there, I guess. The pork was a really good cut, very tender and juicy, and the beef (I tried a mouth from Lock) was really delicious too. And the portion was pretty generous – each slab of meat wasn’t just big, it was thick. Same goes for the bacon – it’s like British bacon where each slice is thick and meaty, not like the American variation where it’s all crispy and crackly. Anyway, the point is, there was a lot of food, and it was all delicious.

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delicious. one of the rare times i enjoyed pork more than beef, even.

We were left to have our dinner in peace, then as we were finishing up, the chef returned with a pan of s’mores that we could DIY roast over the barbequeue. I havent had s’mores for so long – and they were really the perfect way to end the meal, especially fitting since the entire place was decorated like a campsite.

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WHAT THE HECK THIS WAS DELICIOUS

The dinner cost us 1,200BHT per person (without upgrades), which is about 50SGD, and I think it’s so, so worth the money. Everything about the night was perfect. The only thing I would do differently if I have the chance to come back is to arrive earlier – the campsite opens from 5-930pm, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be during golden hour! Apparently sometimes they also have the option for you to try canoeing and horseback riding before dinner, though that option wasnt available the day I was there.

Hands down the best meal we had in Chiang Mai. It wasnt just that the food was good, it was also the whole experience – the setting, the music, the atmosphere. Despite the climate in Southeast Asia it wasn’t humid at all, and we didn’t break a sweat sitting there all night even though we’d mentally prepared for the outdoor dinner to be a sweaty affair. That’s thanks to the lake, I think. I recommend this so, so hard.

Camp Meating
Reservations required – I did it by phone 2 days in advance.
Cash only
Weekend dining – Friday, Sat, Sunday

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X
Jem

#2145 | Rollin with the Reindeers

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Nuuksio National Park, Finalnd
All photos taken with the Nikon D750 on a 85f1.8mm lens

Just showing some love to one of my favorite lenses, the 85mm/f1.8 from Nikon. I borrow it occasionally on my travels because it’s such a gorgeous portrait lens. It’s one of those lenses that you dont get to use often because of how tight the crop is, and it’s heavy too, so for much of the trip I carry it around in my bag like a rock, waiting for the chance to bust it out. Often I go days without seeing an opportunity to use it – but when I do get to pull it out, bam. Totally worth it.

We were in Nuuksio National Park one of the days of our Helsinki trip, where we got to feed the roaming reindeers by hand with hay, but were ultimately separated by a wooden gate. It makes sense – you dont want to let random tourists harass the reindeers, I’ve seen terrible examples of what happens when people are allowed to do whatever they want (imagine: a child hanging off the neck of a poor deer in Nara deer park, the mother cooing how cute! and taking pictures instead of disciplining her child). So I respect the need for a barrier, but I did wish I could get closer to the reindeers, especially when they were full of hay and no longer enticed to come near. That’s when I realised – I couldn’t physcially get closer, but my lens could. Out came the 85.

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That shoulder ache i had, carrying the lens around all trip?

Totally worth it.

x
Jem

#2144 | The Broke Student’s sort-of Guide to Christchurch

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Amazing sunset along the streets in Christchurch, taken on my Samsung S9 in Pro mode
All photos in this post were either taken with the Samsung S9 or Note8

Hey guys,

I’m just going to preface this with the disclaimer that Christchurch was a solo trip for me that I wanted to do totally on my own – meaning not just a solitary trip, but one without the trappings of (admittedly self imposed) obligations to my web platforms. That’s why I didn’t bring a camera on the trip – I wasnt expecting to take photos for anything other than keepsake so a phone would do (though come to think of it the ones that my phone takes are actually very good) and I also didnt consciously plan to pen any guides or anything like that on the trip. All that is to say that if this seems a little sparse compared to my normal BSGs, forgive me. I didn’t plan for this! Something i also say when my phone runs out of battery when i’m out and about, but nevermind. Think of this, then, more as notes from a broke student rather than a full on guide. Alright? Alright, then we are aligned, and without the pressure of expectations, here I go.

Getting to Christchurch

Most people will see Christchurch as sort of an entry point to the South Island of New Zealand, which is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, I think, if you’re a scenery sort of person. Consequently most people dont stay for more than a couple of days in the city – they’re trying to get to the mountains, the lakes, the gorgeous Milford Sound. I had no car and the purpose of my trip wasnt really to see scenery, so I was happy to stay based in Christchurch. But either way, Christchurch serves as a gateway, and one where you’ll probably want to stay a night or two to stock up on groceries and stuff before moving on.

Flying into Christchurch International Airport is easy enough – Singapore has a few carriers that fly that route, though most of them feature a stopover somewhere. I did my stopover in Brisbane via Qantas. (A mild digression: Qantas has surprisingly good in-flight entertainment options – not a huge movie library, but very curated, very recent. I flew in early March and already The Shape of Water and Red Sparrow on the movie list, both of which had just been released in Singapore cinemas)

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movie selection on qantas. super recent releases!

If you book a couple of months in advance it should be easy to get an economy flight for about a thousand singapore dollars, and there’s also the budget carrier Jetstar that goes to NZ. I think its currently the only budget carrier that does that route.

A note if youre flying out of Christchurch as well – if you have an early morning flight, it’s good to know that unlike most major airports, the Chirstchurch airport does not allow sleeping overnight. You’re going to have to get there at 3am in the morning the normal way, like by taxi or shuttle or something. Which brings me to my next point:

Getting to and fro the Christchurch Airport

Christchurch is (I ran a search) the most expensive city in the world for airport taxi transfers. Seriously. The city center is about 20 minutes drive from the airport and that’s a cool 60-70 bucks and beyond. I nearly choked blood when I saw it – I have disposable income now but the broke student in me refuses to pay for that purely based on principle. That was ok going from Christchurch to the city center when I arrived – there are a number of buses that take you to the city, and it’s NZ8.50 cash or NZ2.50 if you’ve got a Metro card.

It’s getting from the city to the airport thats the problem.

If you’ve got a midday or night flight, you dont have anything to worry about since the airport bus will probably still be running. But my flight was 650am, meaning i had to get there at 450am, and no buses are running. Uber is new in CC so there were NO UBERS on the road at that time also – I had a heads up because a few days into my trip, two japanese girls started knocking on my door at 3am in panic because they had assumed they could get an uber to the airport and freaked out when they realised there were none available. I didn’t want to risk waiting on an Uber after that, and I refused to pay for a taxi, so I started looking for other options.

I finally settled on a shared shuttle service. A shuttle (which most major cities have) is a shared minivan or private bus that you pre book, and they come pick you up on the way to the airport. I didnt dare take it before because I’ve heard so many bad things about shuttle services, like how they run late because there are so many people to pick, theyre uncomfortable and stuffy, they dont show up, etc.. so I figured i just had to find a good one. I found a small boutique one called Steve’s Shuttles which was a small company with mainly 5 star reviews on facebook. I felt safer going with a small / boutique company because I felt bigger organizations (like supershuttle) would be prone to inefficiency or messing up, and also cos Steve’s Shuttle had a free phone number I could call up, and I thought the dude on the phone sounded like a decent bloke. Yes I judge people based on their voice tonality!! It’s a side effect of being a choirgirl. Anyway, tt cost me $25 bucks cash, and the shuttle came exactly at 4am to pick me up from my door! Score!! Super happy with this, would definitely recommend. Here’s the link if youre keen: http://www.steveshuttle.co.nz/

Also, plan to get to the airport early. Both the Christchurch and Brisbane airports I passed through were crowded despite the odd hours I kept. The Brisbane airport was also very inefficient in it’s security checks with only one line open both times I phased through, so you might want to make sure your connecting flights arent too close together.

Data/ SIM cards

There are service provider booths just by the airport gates. I went with Spark’s data lover bundle, meaning no calls or texts, but 4.5GB of data with an additional 1GB for purely social data (FB and the like). It was great. NZ40! Connection was super good and never dropped. There was also a 1.5GB option for 20 bucks but .. the math didnt compute. Haha.

If youre travelling solo you probably want to look at getting a Sim card. Otherwise, if youre in a group of 3 and above, a wifi egg might be more worth it, depending on the duration of your trip. Do the sums on your own based on your trip!

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basically took a lot of selfies on the trip because i was alone

Accommodation in Christchurch

There are lots of hostels in Christchurch but I think getting an Airbnb is the best option AND ITS NOT BECAUSE I WORK WITH THEM OK.

A bed in a mixed dorm is anywhere from NZ25 to NZ50. Which means you share a bunk bed with like five to eight other strangers, male and female. I’ve done this a lot, and while I’m happy to stay in hostels, the prices of airbnbs in Christchurch give hostels a total run for their money. I paid SGD26.8 per night for a private room in an Airbnb, which is basically the price of the cheapest hostel bed in a shared dorm. NO BRAINER. I didnt take photos because I was living in someone’s house and didnt think it was very nice for privacy reasons, but just run a search on Airbnb if youre coming to Christchurch, it’s a very good alternative to hostels!

If you’re a first time Airbnb user kindly sign up with my link so I get referral credit and can do more budget solo trips and bring you more broke student guides thank you! Airbnb.com/Jemma

Transport in Christchurch

There are no trains in Christchurch. I know, right? Weird. But they do have a very extensive bus system which is not very reliable nor on time, but at least it tries. That’s the theme of the city i think, because it’s still finding its feet after the earthquakes. But anyway, the bus system is called the Metro, and I took it everywhere.

The metro card is a non refundable ten bucks and this is where you need to decide whether it’s worth it for you. If you pay cash on the bus it’s NZ4. If you use the metro card, it’s NZ2.50 valid for 2 hours (So if you get off and do groceries and take a bus back within 2 hours its free), and total limit for one day is NZ5, so max you pay is NZ5 a day anyway. The bus network extends pretty far out though, and I took the bus to neighbouring towns/beaches/ports just to look see, all for NZ2.50 a trip.

This made a lot of sense for me because I was in Christchurch for 10 days, so the number of times I would take the bus (and thus the discounts I would have via the bus card) was enough to justify the 10 bucks spent on the nonrefundable card. If youre only in town for one or two days, it may not be worth it. Do the math on your end. For reference, I spent NZ10 on the card, and topped up a total of NZ30, which I used to the last penny. Then I gave the empty card to my airbnb host so other guests can top it up and use it in the future, because I am a good person. That is all.

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Some seagulls i saw when taking the bus around to the beaches out of the city

Food in Christchurch

I spent a lot of time in Auckland as a kid because my dad’s a pastor and our founding church is Emmanuel Church in New Zealand. In addition to that, in recent years, my family did a trip to NZ again – both north and south island, to visit family friends and the such. So it is from experience that I confess: food is really not New Zealand’s strong point, and it’s expensive to boot.

You’d be much better off cooking, because groceries are decently priced and fresh because they have their own produce. That’s another benefit to staying in an Airbnb – you might have access to cooking pans, oil, spices, etc, that your host lets you use, whereas in a hostel you might need to buy everything. Groceries in New Zealand aren’t cheap either, but at least you get to control the food you make and it’s still way cheaper than eating out. I cooked every single day in Christchurch, and only ate out a couple of times – when I was meeting someone for dinner, and when I felt like having unagi, which I couldnt make. (Samurai Bowl, Christchurch. Cheap for NZ standards and good food. Check it out.)

An example – I bought pork sirloin at the discount section of the grocery store, it was NZ4.50 for 3 slices, and I had it for three days with a fried egg and sautéed kale. GOOD OR WHAT.

Things I cooked:

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I used a lot of kale because it was cheap. Salmon is not cheaper than in SG, but its way fresher, so i was happy to pay for it!

Oh another thing. There are several grocery chains in Christchurch. I went to poke my head in all of them. The cheapest is Pak n Save, followed closely by New World, followed not-so-closely by Fresh Choice.

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Said Pak n Save

Coffee in Christchurch

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Photos of my coffee lol

Coffee anywhere in NZ is very good and I think this is because their milk is so damned fresh. Cows everywhere. This was my one regular indulgence in Christchurch. Fine. One of two regular indulgences. The second was..

Entertainment in Christchurch

I fell in love with independent movie theater Alice cinemas in Christchurch. It’s a DVD rental store that has been remodelled to fit two theaters, and they screen modern and retro curated films. The whole place is themed like Alice in Wonderland, and you can bring wine into the theater!!!!!

I watched three films there: The Square, Ladybird, and A Fantastic Woman. I didnt know what any of them were before going in, and they were all very good. A good parallel to this is those indie bookstores that stock curated reads as opposed to chain bookstores that stock mass titles.

If you have a student card, it’s NZ12. Otherwise its NZ17 per show. More expensive than Singapore but it’s also not like a regular theater so I guess you’re paying in part for the experience.

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Love this place

Alice Cinemas
209 Tuam St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

Payment Modes in Christchurch

Oh yes, one last point. I only changed NZD100 for my trip and I had money left over. This is because most places in NZ accept card – not just card, but paywave, so it’s incredibly easy to just use your credit card, especially if you have a travel card with miles tied to your overseas dollar spend. I only used cash for a couple of things:

1. One ice cream cone on the beach
2. Second hand books at some random bookstore
3. Airport transfer
4. Some coffee place that didnt accept card

That’s it! Otherwise most places take card, so you can just keep a bit of cash on you for safety. Otherwise it’s all good.

Okay that’s all I have that is relevant to notes for a guide. Hope this was helpful to anyone gathering notes on a New Zealand trip via Christchurch. 🙂 Goodbye, now.

x
Jem