Capital City of Canada

parliament-hill

Bags are packed and are heading to Ottawa. Francis got transferred back to Canada. I decided to take a break from work and join him, while waiting for my permanent residency approval. It is a 2 hours drive from Montreal, 4 hours or more from Toronto. It is going to be interesting to see what I will do while staying here for several months.

For a quick intro on Canada, check out my old post.

Getting Around

map

Our place is in Gatineau, Quebec. It is a 5 min drive over the bridge to Ottawa. The rent is supposedly cheaper and have bigger space. There is no subway as of this year but it is planned to be up by 2018. For now, we have to depend on the bus system or get a car.

There are 2 bus companies: STO for Gatineau, OC Transpo for Ottawa. There are few buses that goes in both cities and all of them goes to the downtown area before spreading out. It can be annoying when you just want to go west of Ottawa but you have to follow the downtown route. For some reason, Google Maps cannot give directions in Gatineau side, except for car navigation. It works well in Ottawa though. I downloaded Transit app to help me plan my routes. STO has an SMS alert that can tell you the next bus arrival, while OC transpo have an app for this.

How the bus works is that it stops on every bus stop that has people. I suppose they made it so because there is a good chance that someone is actually waiting for that bus? I do not have the answer and it sometimes annoy me as it increases the travel time.

Bus fare cost 3.95 CAD but it gets cheaper if you get the Presto card for OC and Multi card for STO. There is a 2 hour free transit if you need to change buses. I needed both cards since you can’t interchange one for the other. They do accept transfers from STO to OC Transpo and vise versa using the 1st card you tap with, but you cannot use Presto to get into a STO bus for the 1st ride of the day, same with the Multi for OC bus.

Attractions

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Ottawa

  • Parliament Hill and Peace Tower to see the nice architecture of the government building
  • Rideau Canal as the longest skating river.
  • Canadian War Museum for war recalls.
  • Byward Market for rows of restaurants and street market.
  • Rideau Centre, mall for most needs
  • Tanger Outlet, not as cheap as US version but might have some bargains if you look hard enough. It is an open mall concept.
  • Canadian Science and Technology is still closed for renovation but one of my list to visit.
  • Calypso Park waterpark is a plan when we have kids 😀

Gatineau

Where to Eat

I became a foodie since I moved to Singapore. I missed Asian food. I find that it is hard to find great food here. I would say Toronto and Montreal have more choices. Still, there are few gems in this city. This will be regularly updated since, as of this posting, I am still exploring the area.

Ancient City of Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan Balloons II

I am not sure if people were surprised when we chose Myanmar as our honeymoon getaway. Regardless, we chose that place since we wanted to have a more Indiana Jones type of an adventure for our next trip. Myanmar, or Burma, opened its door to tourist on 2013, after junta, former military leaders, have transferred its power to the civilian government. After long years of civil wars, things are slowly picking up and the country is gradually developing and opening up to other countries. You won’t expect majority of the modern comforts to be readily available, but that is the current charm of Myanmar.  We chose Bagan for the promise to see the temple ruins.

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Glowworm Beauty in Waitomo and Quick Peek of Auckland

glowworm-caves

Waitomo is a 2 hours ride from Rotorua. It is a very small town with 1 road that lines up the houses and stores. There is a nice hiking trail at one end in case you want to have a quiet stroll.

We came here to see the glowworms. Up close and at daylight, they look like the usual larva hanging at the ceiling, but at night, they glow in a white-bluish color. Put a lot of them together in a dark, moist cave and they become stars of this small haven. They glow to attract food, actually, but the effect is mesmerizing. We booked our tour with Spellbound Glowworm Cave. They accept small group, which avoid us from having the claustrophobic tourist feeling. The tour includes a walk inside a stalagmite-stalactite cave as well. It was 150 NZD. Come with a steady hand and long exposure point for photo taking. Flash photography is not allowed to avoid scaring the worms.

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Rotten Eggs, Hobbiton and Mud Bath in Rotorua

rotorua

From the capital city of Wellington, we head off on a 6 hour drive to Rotorua, the place where sulfur is in the air. It actually smells of rotting eggs and you will get use to it after an hour. On our road trip, we passed Mount Doom, another LOTR icon where the ring is to be destroyed. It is also called Mount Ngauruhoe.

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The Windy City of Wellington

wellington

Wellington, where wind blows and streets winding, has its charms of a bustling city without the chaos. We arrived at the ferry from Picton/Nelson visit (see blog) and took a shared shuttle, Super Shuttle, to our accommodation for the next 4 days. We didn’t know our Airbnb host, Hilary, was away on an emergency and we were surprised when no one answered to the doorbell or the phone when we tried to call her. We were in a dilemma as it was 11pm and in a residential area with no nearby hotel or motel. Continue reading

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