Travel and World-Schoolingj

Our 6-7 month trip is coming to an end, and we have had the most amazing time! Lots of ups and downs, lots of last minute plan changes and we have all grown so close.

We have all learnt so much as a family and as individuals, and we are very grateful to be able to experience everything that we have, we feel very lucky.

Here are some things that me and Glen have learnt:

  1. Never plan ahead just take each day as it comes
  2. Possessions are not important
  3. Life is for living and loving
  4. You only live once
  5. Take risks
  6. It’s important to say “I love you” everyday
  7. Surround yourself with people who are happy and smile alot
  8. People can be incredibly generous
  9. Animal therapy is an actual thing, and cuddling a dog, cat, rabbit or petting a horse will make you happy
  10. It’s always best just to laugh at everything that goes wrong (especially if you break a bed in a lovely hotel)
  11. You will never get 1 minute to yourself when travelling with your children
  12. You can love and hate your children at the same time
  13. Our girls are more demanding and strong willed than we realised, and could probably run for prime-mister one day.
  14. You can teach maths pretty much anywhere everyday, using sugar sachets, counting objects under water, and lift buttons
  15. There is never a “language barrier” when you are a pro at charades….
  16. ….And you have google translate
  17. Booking.com will take your money regardless if you like your hotel or not
  18. Americans’ and Thais’ are the happiest people we have met on our travels
  19. Baths, dressing gowns and Yorkshire puddings are missed everyday (by Gemma)
  20. Glen has learnt how to play the ukulele
  21. The girls are now ready to settle somewhere for a while

What Ellie and Maisie have Learnt:

  1. To swim like mermaids
  2. They have both learnt how to belly surf and now they want to learn to do real surfing
  3. Both learnt how to horse ride
  4. Leant how to fish, gut and cook a fish
  5. How to feed a baby goat
  6. How to make friends and play with children from all over the world with out worrying about language. They have friends from China, India, Thailand, Japan, France, Russia, Netherlands, Germany, America, Fiji, New Zealand….
  7. How to say hello, goodbye and thank you in many languages
  8. How to get used to change and constant moving around, nothing fazes them now!
  9. How to pose for photos around 5 times a day for Indians, Thais And Chinese as they love their skin and hair colour!
  10. Learnt how to say goodbye without getting upset
  11. How to get used to only having a small bag of cheap 7-11 plastic toys
  12. Both can now walk for 3-4 miles with out complaining
  13. Both have tried new foods and realised they like new things
  14. Both of them are a lot closer as sisters than they were before we left
  15. Both of them want cats, dogs, rabbits, horses as pets, they have a list…
  16. Academic Lessons America– History, Cowboys, Tectonic Plates and mountains, astronomy, weather, wildlife, art, music
  17. Academic Lessons New Zealand– earth quakes, tectonic plates, and Thermal activity, wildlife, the sun and the moon
  18. Academic Lessons Thailand– Language, friendships, religion, culture, cooking and food, swimming,
  19. I’m sure they have learnt so much more than this list!

But now it’s time for a new adventure, in a new country with a different language that we have been practicing as much as we can!

Keep reading our blogs to find out what we are doing next!

Love Gem, Glen, Ellie and Maisie

Xxx

Have you ever wanted to visit Thailand or have plans to go, but wonder how you would get from town to town? If you are wanting to really immerse yourself in the Thai culture keep reading this blog has all the information for you!

Lets look at different types of transport in Thailand;

TuktukYou would only use this method of transport to travel a few miles, no further and you wouldn’t expect to pay more than 100-200 Thai Baht. This seems to be their starter price, any less then they will certainly be trying to sell you something else later (see more information on this further down in “Bangkok”). You can also use a Tuktuk for a day trip, taking you to many temples and other places of interest; we paid around 400 Thai Baht for 2 hours around Ayutthaya.

Taxi – Can be a more convenient way to travel somewhere that’s only around 1 hour away, for example we used a lot of taxies to get to different areas of Bangkok, as well as travelling down to Pattaya, and Koh Samet.  You shouldn’t be paying any more than approx 1000 Thai Baht per hour.

Bus – we didn’t get to use this method of transport but here is a link that may help:

Train – All of the above will get caught in traffic at some point, plus there are a lot of accidents in Thailand, a lot more than anywhere else in the world. So with traffic, accidents and two busy children in mind, we felt the train would be more suitable for us; plus there are toilets on trains which is good if you are travelling with children.

The Northern Line Train goes straight up the middle of Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai; there are many different types of train that run on the Northern Line, some run faster than others, some have aircon and some don’t. Prices range from 40 to 500 Thai Baht each depending on what class and train you choose to travel on, we chose to travel on all different trains so keep reading if you need help decided what kind of train is best for you.

Examples of Different trains:

Ordinary: No class choice, No aircon, Large open windows, 40 Thai baht, Slower

Express (71 & 77): 2nd class, Aircon 400 Thai Baht each,  or 3rd Class no aircon 50-60 Thai Baht each, Fast

Special Express (3 & 7): 2nd Class Aircon, 400-500 Thai Baht, Fastest

On our very first train experience we chose a 2nd Class Express train with, as we had heard some awful stories of 3rd Class and Ordinary trains, we will talk about 3rd Class/ Ordinary Trains later on in this blog.

www.thailandtrains.com has lots of information and timetables

BANGKOK

Bangkok is usually where most people start, so here are some tips on where to stay, what to do and how to get the train to your next destination.

There are many areas of Bangkok to stay, just make sure you don’t book the wrong area – otherwise you will be in the middle of a “business” area (Eg Silom) which is much like Fenchurch Street London with no restaurants or street markets. Siam is good if you like a busy town, links to other towns via the Skytrain and would like to do some shopping -at the Siam Square and MBK Centre.

Here are some good areas and hotels that we would suggest, and we have included some surrounding things to do:

Ramada Plaza by Wyndham, Bangkok, Menam Riverside (booking.com)

This hotel is higher end with a swimming pool, and right next to the river, so you can get a river taxi as cheap as 20 Thai Baht each (£0.50 / $0.65) to any town along the river as well as the main Koh San Road.

In the evening be sure to visit the night market, and book to watch the Muay Thai Kick Boxing show at Asiatique http://www.muaythailive.com. This is suitable for all ages, showing the history of Muay Thai through music, dance and martial arts. You can if you wish stay for 2 live fights at the end, which we did, our children are both girls aged 8 and 4 and they absolutely loved it!

Mango Lagoon Place, Koh San Road, Bangkok (agonda.com)

This hotel is a budget hotel with a swimming pool, its set in the middle of a very vibrant street full of street food, clothes stalls and restaurants. Only 5 min walk to the River (so you can get a river Taxie to any nearby towns) 5 mins walk to the busy Koh San Road, which has a fantastic night market! And an added bonus is that this is also 5 min walk to the famous Muay Thai Street boxing camp, and on Sunday evenings at 6.30pm you can watch a live match for free!

UPDATE: Soi Ram Buttri is achally much better and not as touristy as Khao San Road!

Just a few tips for Koh San Road area:

  1. TukTuks are on commission, so if you hire them to take you to some temples for a hour, they will take you to random shop at the end of your trip in hope that you will buy something (they will get a special stamp/ or money if you do) one place that we were taken to was a high end suit making shop, it was very awkward and uncomfortable!
  2. You will get told that Ko San Road is shut because there is a fight down there, OR that its a special day today, only today to see floating market! TRUST ME Do not believe them, they are trying to get you in their Tuktuk to make their money.
  3. You will be asked over and over by many Tuktuk drivers while on your peaceful stroll if you would like to go on a day trip to see the local Temples, or to the floating markets – if you don’t want to go just tell them that you have been already! Job done!

AYUTTHAYA

Getting there

Train from Bangkok (Hua Lamphong) to Ayutthaya, we caught the

71 EXPRESS = 10.05am arriving at 11.24am this cost approx. 1200 Thai baht for 3 of us (Maisie was free)

About Ayutthaya

If you listened to the history of Muay Thai when watching the Muay Thai Live you would have learnt that Ayutthaya is where it originated from. If you are also a fan of the films “Kick Boxer” and “Mortal Combat” you will certainly want to make a stop here, as this is where they filmed them! We will tell you where to go to get the best side by side photo from the films.

Fun Fact: Each town has its own style of tuk-tuks, Ayutthaya’ are especially cool, and unique, and very brightly coloured!

Where to stay and what to do in Ayutthaya

P.U. Inn Resort (Booking.com)

This resort is absolutely beautiful, Mrs Pu has taken her time to make this place very welcoming and comfortable for her guests! Each room has a sofa inside and outside of the room, beds are extremely comfortable, and the style is clean and modern. If you book for a family ask for one of the rooms on the first floor, as you will get an amazing view of their pond at the back. By night you can watch the Fireflies twinkle, and in the morning you can see the beautiful pink flowers opening – which are closed during the day, absolutely magical.

Just 2 min walk from P.U. Resort there are many bars and restaurants which we highly recommend, the street is quiet all the chairs are outside and it has a wonderful warm feeling. One of the bars is called Jazz Bar, which has live music every Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Mrs Pu will offer you a boat tour, which is definitely worth every penny, its a late afternoon boat trip, that will take you to see 4 temples with a final ruin temple at sunset!

The next day hire a Tuktuk, we paid 400 Thai Baht (£10 / $12.50) for 2 hours to be taken to 4 temples of our choice, (they will show you a list and you can choose) and we chose them as Glen wanted to photograph the temples/ruins from scenes in movies KICKBOXER and MORTAL KOMBAT.

Glens side by side film photos:

If you are interested in seeing these filming locations then this is where you you need to go.

KICKBOXER :-Wat Mahathat and Wat Ratchaburana.

MORTAL KOMBAT :- Wat chaiwatthanaram , Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

It can take some time pin pointing the exact filming location within the temple grounds, but it is fasinating slowly walking around these temples taking in the spiritual atmospher.

LOPBURI

Getting There

11.27am from Ayutthaya arriving at 12.39pm 201 Ordinary Train 3rd Class 40 Thai Baht each

As the train was only just over an hour we decided to brave the “Ordinary” train which was a fantastic choice, the windows were wide open, the views were spectacular and there was a very cool breeze.

About Lopburi

Lopburi town is located 130 kilometres north of Bangkok and only 60 kilometres north of Ayutthaya, this town is known for its resident monkeys that you will find swinging over the rooftops and climb on ancient ruins. Its definitely worth a visit, especially now (july) as all the monkeys have babies!

Where to Stay and What to do in Lopburi

Little Lopburi Village (Booking.com)

I can not recommend this homestay enough! Little Lopburi Village is run by a retired Thai couple, who are the most loving and welcoming people we have ever met! If you decide to stay here, please arrive with a smile, and be kind please, they deserve every ounce of respect. We decided to take their afternoon trip, which took us to 2 temples, a sunflower field (was not season for sunflowers but it was an amazing location) and a bat cave! This was one of the best few hours of our lives, and we totally recommend you go on this trip.

Their property is around 10 min walk to the monkey temple, if you decide to walk to see the monkeys, be aware that they are feisty, and will jump on you or chase you. If you are a little nervous you might be better off watching them in the nearby roads, as they are not as hostile, and will run away from you.

The Monkey Temple is their home, and I think that they are just protecting their area so please be careful – was was advised to take a stick to shoo them away.

Here is a little video Little Lopburi Village made for us

PHITSANULOK

Getting There

1.00pm arriving at 4pm, Special Express 3, 2nd Class 400 Thai baht each

Where to Stay and what to do in Phitsanulok

The Grand Riverside Hotel (booking.com)

IMG_3330

We didn’t expect too much from this stay, but we had a fantastic time staying here! Our rooms were interlocking so the children had their own room, plus I managed to have a bath! Every evening they have karaoke in the Restaurant which we all joined in with, it was lovely to let our hair down and have some fun!

Book a taxi asking to visit the Large Water Lilies, its around 10 min drive from the hotel and totally worth a look! If you are under 120 ib you can pay 100 Thai Baht to stand on a Lilly pad and have a selfie!

More information on https://www.thailandee.com/en/visit-thailand/giant-water-lilies-pond-phitsanulok-398

SUKHOTHAI

Getting There

There are no direct trains from Phitsanlok (I didn’t realise this before booking) you can book a taxi for 800 Thai Baht to get there in 50 mins.

About Sukhothai

Where to Stay and What to do in Sukhothai

Foresto Sukhothai Guest Home (booking.com)

We had been travelling for sometime by now, and decided to take a break for a few days, and relax somewhere with a pool! And this is what we did, along with some Spanish lessons, Ukulele lessons and reading for the kids! We took one day out to the Old Town, via wooden bus – that cost 100 Thai Baht for all of us which was wonderful! We hired bikes when we got here for the kids, which cost 30 Thai Bahts, and took a leisurely stroll around the ruins in the Central Zone. Once we had finished looking around the ruins, we were told about a ceramic making place.

 

LAMPANG

Getting There

Taxi back to Phitsanlok Train station 800 Thai Baht

13.22 Special Express 7 train arriving at 17.30 we opted for 2nd Class as it was a longer journey and cost us approx. 1200 Thai Baht for all of us

Where to Stay and what to do in Lampang

Kanecha’s Home (booking.com)

Kenecha’s home is probably one of the most beautiful houses we have stayed in, wonderfully decorated rooms, comfortable beds and welcoming staff! We booked a two bedroom villa, so our girls had their own room and shower which they loved, travelling as a family doesn’t give you any privacy!

If you visit here at the weekend, take a walk to the weekend night market, this for us was a beautiful walk taking in the atmosphere and smells. It was such an odd experience walking through a very busy market, but being so calm and quiet; I have never felt so relaxed in such a busy place.

Lampang is known for its Horse and Carriage, so we decided to book a trip around town for 1 hour costing 400 Thai Baht, where we were taken to a few temples, and a street party! We did feel bad for the horse as we are not the smallest of people, but luckily we only travelled for 4-5 mins at a time and then the horse relaxed in the shade for 10-15 mins.

Weekend Street Market Lampang

Horse and Carridge Ride Lampang

 

CHIANG MAI

Getting There

The Journey from Lampang to Chiang Mai is approx 2 hours, and we decided to take the 12.36 Diesel Train that only cost us 70 Thai Baht for all of us (£1.80 / $2.40) Here is a little video of our journey that we really enjoyed!

Where to Stay and what to do in Chiang Mai

Baan Sang Singn  (Booking.com)

IMG_4266

This resort is run by a wonderful family, and has many room options suitable for families eg Bunk Beds, a beautifully clean swimming pool, and a few ride on toys for the kids. The family have children themselves, and definitely have thought carefully about travelling families and their needs.

This is by far the cleanest hotel we have ever been in, rooms are cleaned every day, windows are cleaned, pool side toys, tables and chairs. The cleaners work hard all day to keep the resort spotless, and you can tell that the family have alot of pride in their business. The food here is very well priced, and very tasty, and if you would like breakfast its best to order the night before to be ready at a certain time in the morning.

We stayed in a special room for our daughters birthday which we would highly recommend, its a Family Suite (with Bunkbed) it even has a bath! see photos below:

The girls were very excited, and even spent some time playing with their toys on the bus,  we had some very happy children – Thank you Baan Sang Singh for an incredible stay we will be recommending you!

The resort is approx 10 min tuktuk drive from the train station, and 10 min walk to the main walls of Chaing Mai.

There are many things advertised to do around Chaing Mai, but with us looking into them further they seem to be either cruelty to animals or cruelty to the village people, too expensive or unappropriate for children. Here is an example of what is on offer in the Tuk-tuks:

IMG_4497.jpg

One place we wished we could visit was 2-3 hours drive away was the Golden Triangle, White Temple – if you have young children this can be a very long day for you all. Maybe staying at Ching Rai or further north might be a better option.

We planned to be busy every other day, so the children can play by the pool and relax on the others. Thailand is very hot, and you will all get very tired if you have long busy trips booked everyday. Here is our list of things to do in Chiang Mai that is suitable for children, that you can either walk or organise transport yourself with a Tuktuk or Taxi:

Cat Café – They Call Me Cat (15 Min walk)

https://www.facebook.com/Cat-cafe-They-call-me-cat-403918557032783/

This was a fabulous little time spent petting 25 cats, all different breads and all absolutely beautiful! We paid the 100 Thai Baht each to enter, the money goes towards running the small business, and keep the cats well feed and pampered! All the cats are happy, healthy and love lots of attention! Be prepared to have the puuuurrrrfect time!

 Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre – Khantoke Dinner Show (10 min drive- 150 Thai Baht)

https://www.facebook.com/OldChiangmaiCulturalCenter/

We had a fantastic time here, we sat at the front on traditional Thai mats, and ate our food from a small platter in the middle. For us it was an opportunity for the children to try new foods, as so far they havnt been very adventurous. The food is wonderful, – (some spicy some not) and they do come around and offer more when you run out, so don’t worry if you are feeling hungry you will be well fed. The show itself is a mixture of all Thai dances from Traditional thai to Hill tribes. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening, and both the girls were both memorised by the fingernail dance!

Ploenrudee Night Market (5 min tuktuk 100 Thai Baht)

https://www.facebook.com/ploenrudeenightmarket/

Vibrant market place with fusion food stalls, funky cocktail bars made from converted busses, and live music! We had a wonderful time here, and once you have finished eating and dancing you can have a lovely stroll up and down the night market outside – what more would you want?

Lucky Bunny Cafe – (10 min walk)

https://www.facebook.com/luckybunnycafe/

Or

https://www.facebook.com/Pinny-House-by-Lucky-Bunny-Cafe-269179213734435/

If you love a fury friend, you have to visit Lucky Bunny Cafe! They only allow 8-9 people in at a time and it cost 200 Thai Baht per person to enter. So when you arrive grab yourself a table in the cafe and wait for a bit untill they are ready for the next group!

I assure you the wait and the cost is totally worth it! You will meet several bunny’s of different breeds, each can do a different trick from kissing, high 5s and standing, and you will get a chance to practice the tricks yourself with the bunny’s! All of them are well looked after, coats are shiny, and they bright eyed and happy – definitely well loved and looked after.

If your looking for something to do with the kids while in Chiang Mai this is definitely one of our top choices- the kids will be “hopping” for joy!

Hmong  Hill Tribe and Wat Phrathat Doi Suthed Temple

Since we have been in Thailand all of the trips we have done, we have always made our own way there, and not booked any organised trips; we find them very expensive and time limiting. For our trip to Hmong Hill Tribe and Temple we booked a red TukTuk van for 1200 Thai baht, instead of 900 Thai Baht per person with a tourist operator.

Hmong Hill Tribe was not what we expected, I had a secluded warm welcoming village in mind, with everyone dressed in tribal clothing, all running at us open arms- but unfortunately this was not the case. The whole town is commercialised tourist trap full of hundreds of stalls, and children asking for money if you take their photo! I am assuming they are dressed in the morning, and briefed for their days work, making sure they collect as much money as possible. We were very gutted about this, and feel it’s a real shame that what probably was once a beautiful village in the mountains, is now just a huge money making town.  But we did have a wonderful day out, driving up the mounting, having fun as a family and seeing all the beautiful views!

The Temple down the hill from Hmong was beautiful, we had to climb many steps to get to the top and was just 30 Thai Baht to enter (adults) We purchased flowers, and incense from the bottom, and all made a wish to Buddha at the top.

 

Chiang Mai Elephant Home (Free transfer) 

https://m.facebook.com/CmElephantHome/

https://chiangmaielephanthome.com/ 

If you love elephants, and really disagree with riding them this is the place to go, no chains no saddles, just love! Chiang Mai Elephant Home is a team of people who rescue Elephants from Riding camps, where they have been treated badly, and offer them a beautiful home in a small village surrounded by mountains. The whole experience is calm, nothing is rushed and you are welcomed with a smile.

We decided to book a full day elephant experience, which starts off at 8am when you are picked up from your hotel and driven south of Chiang Mai approx. 1 hour 30 mins away. When you arrive you are greeted by the team, and given some clothes to put on. The first part of the morning is very relaxed, you will be given lots of information about the elephants, while you are making a yummy treat for them while watching them play in the field behind you!

Once you have made your elephant treat, you will be given a bag of food, and taken to meet the elephants to feed them! They are always very hungry, and the babies will hunt down your bag for bananas, they are very cheeky and playful!

Once you have fed the Elephants you will be asked to give them huge leaves, which they play with and eat, which gives you an opportunity to have a photo with them. Around 12-12.30 it’s your turn to eat, and the food offered is very yummy – curry, rice, vegetables, omelette and some fruit. We were very lucky to have cake, as they kindly made one for my daughters 5th birthday as a surprise, which we were incredibly grateful for.

After your lunch, your afternoon consists of washing the elephants with mud, and then splashing them with water in the river, an absolutely incredible experience, especially watching the babies who were obviously very happy rolling around in the water. On your way home you will be taken to a waterfall for a dip, perfect end to the day.

Chiang Mai Elephant Home Full Day Experience was the highlight of our Thailand trip, most  magical experience being so close to these incredible animals, If you love Elephants I would highly recommend booking here! If you would like to see our experience in full please watch our YouTube link below:

Places to eat near to Baan Sang Singh:

B Samcook – Outstanding Breakfast and Dinner very high standard https://www.facebook.com/thebfamilycnx/

Chiangmai Breakfast World – beautiful garden and large selection of breakfast https://www.facebook.com/cmbreakfastworld/

 

BACK TO BANGKOK

Getting There: Night Train! 14 hours in a 1st class private sleeper cabin 19th July 2019 VIDEO AND REVIEW TO COME!

 

 

1. Freedom camping is now illegal in most towns.

We only discovered this once we arrived in New Zealand, we were under the impression that it was the best place in the world for camping- but we were wrong! Unfortunately many other campers have abused the system in the past by littering and dumping anywhere and damaging their beautiful scenery. So now most “Freedom” camps are closed for good, and many signs are up saying no freedom camping.

2. Locals call Motorhome’s “Road Maggots”

Especially in the South driving in our 7.5 metre campers,we didn’t feel welcomed! We learnt that our nickname is “Road Maggots” that just get in their way on the roads; we had many cars and lorry’s tailgating us, forcing Glen to pull over to let them past. Parking can be a struggle in smaller towns if you have a larger Motorhome leave earlier, or plan your trip accordingly.

3. South Island is less welcoming to campers compared to the North.

We haven’t worked out why this is yet, and maybe we will never know but just we didn’t feel liked in the South Island.

4. Camping in New Zealand is harder than camping in USA.

I know we are comparing two completely different countries here, but our travels in a Motorhome in USA was a lot easier than our trip around New Zealand. USA is fully equipped with dump stations every few miles, where New Zealand has a dump station every 50-60 miles if your lucky. Americans sell their homes, and buy massive RVs to travel in around their own country. So locals in USA are more welcoming to travellers, and you can meet a lot more locals on the road compared to New Zeland.

Our trip around New Zealand was amazing, but I feel we would of learnt a lot more about NZ and it’s culture if we travelled by car and stayed in hotels.

5. All your camper friends will be European or Asian.

Get your language book out, as you might struggle making friends around the campsites! We didn’t meet many New Zealander’s during our travels, or English speaking families. Our children had a fantastic time and learnt a lot from foreign children which I am extremely grateful for. Ellie got her pen and pad out most days, going off to teach all the children English!

6. New Zealander’s don’t wear shoes.

I googled this as I wasn’t sure why New Zealander’s don’t wear shoes- they walk barefoot in the supermarket, shops and streets! Here what I found:

“Culture: In Maori culture, going barefoot means that you connect with nature. A wharenui (meeting house) in a marae (Maori meeting place) is considered a tapu (sacred) place. Wearing shoes inside a wharenui is an act of desecration to the tapu of the wharenui. Our Maori heritage is important and meaningful to all of us.”

More info click HERE

7. Rotorua and many other towns have Maori gangs, that wear different colours.

I am not joking, and I only found this out when another New Zealander couldn’t believe I survived a grocery shop called Pak ‘n’ Save, Rotorua! I just felt like I was in Pitsea Essex nothing different for me!

“FOR a quiet country, New Zealand has a peculiar problem with gangs. It is reckoned to have one of the highest membership rates in the world. In a population of 4.7m, police count over 5,300 mobsters or “prospects” who are angling to join.

More info click HERE

8. You will drive though sheep and clouds for miles in the South Island.

This is quite an experience as you are literally driving in the clouds all the time while you are in the South Island everything looks so beautiful! I have never seen so many sheep in one space before, all dotted up the hills for miles…

9. …And then without warning you will see the most fascinating views.

This is the best part about New Zealand, the huge contrast between green lush fields, and rugged mountains. And it creeps up on you without warning, giving you a wonderful surprise! Even in the North Island you’ll be driving through sheep and fields, and little do you know that over the hill is the most pristine beach you have ever seen! The two don’t usually go together, but in New Zealand two contrasting landscapes stand side by side as one.

10. New Zealand sits on a tectonic plate Fault line.

This is what freaked us out the most about New Zealand- the many “Fault Lines” it has causing all the geothermic activity and many earth quakes. The biggest fault is the East Coast of the North Island, where the Australian Tectonic plate pushes under the Pacific Plate- rather than how they should be- side by side. At the moment there are predictions of a Tsunami anytime soon! Read more HERE

SNEEKY EXTRA TWO 😊

11. There are no Land Animals in New Zealand

I still can’t get my head around this to why there isn’t any land animals here, there are many birds, some of which can not fly but nothing else! I do wonder weather all the geothermal activity and the fault lines have scared them all off!

12. Top 10 Campsites are the best

Top 10 are fully equipped campsites, with full hookups, hot showers, kids playground, other children for our children to meet and play with. Yes I know these cost a few more $ than some of the DOC Sites, but for us Top 10 has been a god send! Nothing like a hot shower, a little bit of WiFi for blog writing and Netflix when the kids are asleep! Click HERE to see their website.

SOUTH ISLAND CLICK HERE

NORTH ISLAND CLICK HERE

NORTH ISLAND CAMPERVAN ROAD TRIP

Are you planning your road trip for New Zealand and need some ideas on where to go, and best places to visit in New Zealand in a motorhome? You are in the right place! We have also written about our trip South Island Trip click HERE Take a look!

This travel blog is intended to help other campers travel New Zealand in the best way possible, alot has changed with New Zealand rules and you can no longer freedom camp. DOC camps are available, but do not supply hot water, or electricity just drop toilets. During summer months these DOC camps are full up by 2pm, and if you are travelling with children you do not want to find yourself stuck with no where to stay.

I would highly recommend either booking local familes “Driveways” you can find these on Campmate (download the app on your phone. The next recommendation is Top 10 Campsites www.top10.co.nz they have everything you need from dump stations, cold water, hotwater showers, Wifi, electric hook up, kitchens, TV rooms, bike hire, laundry, childrens park, jelly mountain and of course you can book in advance! If you sign up to become a member you will get 10% off each park you book, and during the Autumn months of May and June they Offer 30% off. For us, comparing the cost of DOC sites (that only offer toilets) and Campermate sites, you are achally paying around the same for Top 10 – sometimes a little more –  but trust me its totally worth every penny!

We have been in situations in the South Island when we have not had anywhere to dump, or shower and stuck in the middle of no where without phone coverage, and I can tell you that wasnt fun! Since we have travelled New Zealand these past 6 weeks we have realised that it is not fully equipt for campers, freedom camping is now illigal in most towns, and we have found it a very hard country to camp in.

So here you go this is our 18 day road trip around the North Island of New Zealand;

WELLINGTON

2 Nights

Night one: Cuba Street Motorhome Park $35 (campermate app)

This carpark campsite is 1 min walk from the hippy vintage town of Wellington, Cuba Street is full of quirky people, and vibrant restaurants and bars.

We ate at The Flying Burrito Brothers, and a meal for 4 came to $100, which for us was very reasonably priced.

Night two: Paekariki Holiday Park $42 (campermate app)

We loved this campsite because it was full of large butterflies, and each bay is separated by hedges; we felt like we was in the Queens’ back garden! Lots of grounds for the kids to explore as well as a park and a jelly mountain.

DRIVE FROM PAEKARIKI PARK TO LAKE TAUPO 4 HOURS

 

LAKE TAUPO

1 Night: Happy Daze Drive Way – families drive way $40 (campermate app)

This wasn’t an official Lake Taupo campsite, but we could walk out the back of their garden and see the edge of the lake! Beautiful spot with a beach, and stunning sunset! The family are extremely friendly and have done their fair share of travelling. Our girls played for hours with their children, they are lovely and very sociable – my girls had a lot of fun!

DRIVE FROM LAKE TAUPO TO ROTORUA 1 HOUR

ROTORUA

3 nights: Top 10 Rotorua (30% May and June) $148

There are lots to do around Rotorua so we suggest taking your time here, its an absolutely fascinating place; If you can stand the smell (to be fair it wasn’t as bad as others describe – it was like burnt gases) This campsite is a perfect base for all the things to see and do below.

Things to see and do:

Hot Pools at Top 10: Here they have two hot pools that they fill up every day with fresh hot water from the natural geothermal pools, it’s a bit smelly and green, but is ment to be good for your skin and its very relaxing.

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Wakarewarewa Forest, Treewalk: www.treewalk.co.nz This is an absolutely amazing 700 metre long tree walk in the Redwood forest, that consists of 28 suspension bridges for you to walk across from tree to tree. Redwoods are known for being gigantic, these are only 100 year old are not even fully grown yet, but still HUGH! We booked the Redwood Treewalk +Nightlights which was out of this world! You get to walk along the tree tops after dusk when they light up the trees with beautiful lights, and 30 lanterns designed by an artist called David Trubridge. If you would like to see them in the day too, and you have a campervan maybe try what we did; park up at 4pm walk into the forest  (free to explore the forest next to the treewalk) go back to cook your dinner, and then walk across to the treetop walk after sunset!

Wakarewarewa Living Maori Village: www.whakarewarewa.com This for us was an absolute treat, and the best experience of our trip so far! We had a guided tour around the Maori Village, learnt about how they live, and some of their family history. It was fascinating to see all the geothermal activity and how they use it in their everyday life. After the tour and Maori traditional dance show, we were allowed to spend as long as we liked exploring the village, which we did! We ate lunch in their café, and we choose pastries and corn that was cooked in their geothermic underground ovens – trust me you must try, they taste amazing! We then took a walk round following the maps to see all there hot pools, mud pools and geezers, which again I highly recommend.

DRIVE FROM ROTORUA TO HOTWATER BEACH 3 HOURS

 

HOTWATER BEACH

4 Nights: Top 10 Hotwater Beach (30% off May/June) $159

Beautiful campsite 5 minute walk to the Hotwater beach

Things to see and do

Hotwater Beach – This for us was a fascinating experience, and to this day we don’t totally understand why there is hot water under the sand! But anyway, this must be on your list of to dos for the North Island. It will be busy, so get there at the times they suggest, dig a hole and sit in the water that comes up from the ground! It will be hot, so if you have a bucket take it with you so you can cool it down with cold sea water.

Hahei Beachabsolutely beautiful beach, if you go in Autumn you will have the whole beach to yourself!

Cathedral CovesUnfortunately we didn’t get to go to the coves, it was on our list but struggled to get there with the weather, and tide times. I love to go places where no one else is, and capture beautiful photos, so sunrise was on our minds. But everytime we got up at 6am, the rain was coming down hard! Absolutely gutted.

DRIVE FROM HOTWATER BEACH TO AUCKLAND 3 HOURS

 

AUCKLAND

1 Night: Z-Peir $20 for 24 hours (campermate app)

Things to see and do

There is probably a lot more to do in town, but we had to apply for our Visa for Thailand, and buy a few things so we didn’t have a lot of time here. After we finished our to do list, went to a cool place called Great Escape www.greatescapethegame.co.nz If you are brave enough to take on a challenge you can be locked into a room where you have to solve puzzles to escape! We choose “Dreams of Alice” as we had the kids with us, and we didn’t know what to expect! All I can tell you is that there are a lot of surprises, and we managed to escape with 2 seconds spare! Highly Recommended!

DRIVE FROM AUCKLAND TO WHATUWHIWHI 4 HOURS

 

WHATUWHIWHI (Doubtless Bay)

2 Nights: Top 10 Whatawhiwhi (30% off May/June) $91.80

Beautiful campsite, close to the beach!

Things to see and do

Fishing: Buy fishing equipment from Reel Rods www.reelrods.co.nz we just bought two different types of hand lines that cost $5 – $10.

Perehope Beach – 2o metres from the Campsite great for Fishing, fishing at high tide is recommended.

Waikato Bay – Double bay full of beautiful shells and warm water, as we are travelling in Autumn we had the whole beach to ourselves and had a fantastic day out.

Karikari Beach – Long white sandy beach absolutely beautiful.

DRIVE FROM WHATUWHIWHI TO CAPE REINGA 2-3 HOURS (allow time for Sand Dunes)

 

CAPE REINGA

1 Night: Tapotupotu Campsite DOC – $32.50 Beautiful campsite by the beach (campermate app)

Things to see and do

Te Paki Sand dunes – Hire boards from a little van at the dunes $10 each – the smaller dune behind the van is best for kids and they will still fly down the dune quite fast we had a fun few hours here.

Lighthouse – Very spiritual place for Maoris as this is where their loved ones in spirit “leap” into their final journey. This is a beautiful 10 minute walk down hill to the lighthouse.

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Meeting of Oceans – To the left of the lighthouse you will see a group of waves, which is the Tasmanian Sea and Pacific Ocean meeting – they do not mix just clash against each other.

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DRIVE FROM CAPE REINGA TO BAY OF ISLANDS 2.5 HOURS

 

BAY OF ISLANDS

1 Night: Top 10 Piapia $52

Things to see and do

This was a pit stop from Cape Reinga to Red Beach – We didn’t plan anything here as we needed a relaxed day, but that is what is great thing about staying at a Top 10, they always have things to do for the kids if you are wanting a chilled day! We spent the day playing in the park, and the beach 1 metre away from our campervan. There are around 20 ducks here, that are not shy, and love to be fed! If you are looking for things to do around the Bay of Islands, there are plenty of boat trips and day trips for you to do around the area.

RED BEACH

2 Nights $63

Top 10 Red Beach (30% off May/June) $63

Beautiful campsite walking distance to beach and 30 min drive to Auckland

We have spent the entire day packing up all our things in just one small suitcase, and bagging up the rest of our unneeded clothes, and unused food ready to donate tomorrow at Auckland City Mission!

Things to see and do

We have found possibly the worlds best homemade science children’s museum in the world! You can tell that a lot of thought and hard work has gone into designing this, and is most definitely made with love!

If you are after something to do with the kids, especially if you are world-schooling we would HIGHLY recommend The Science Play Room https://www.scienceplayroom.co.nz Our girls love science, and this covered everything in a fun, educational way for children of all ages! This is an interactive, educational mum and toddler group that will keep them little minds active for hours! There is even a separate locked gate area for small children/ babies aswell as somewhere to make a tea or coffee.

The room is made into many little rooms separated by little wooden walls in bright fun colours. I can’t remember them all but they have: The Body, Bees, Dinosaurs, Magnets, Space, Submarine, Music, Vets, Electricity, Architecture, Air machines, Mirrors, Bending Light…the list goes on!

OUR VISION

Spark innovative, imaginative learning through playful experiences.

Stimulate curiosity about the world around you.

Explore science, technology, engineering, arts and maths activities.

The lady who runs it has clearly worked very hard to put this all together, a lot of thought has gone into The Science Playroom and you must definitely take a visit! Please go to the website for directions on where to park for Free.

Here are some photos from our day:

Last Destination is Auckland Airport as we are off to THAILAND for 2 months keep an eye on our blog!             

Top Tip: We suggest planning your route around dump, water stations, and petrol stations and Plan your trip before you go to your next few destinations; Wifi and phone service is very limted.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE NEW ZEALAND TIPS

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