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Surprisingly! Azerbaijan

Not many people know this Country, they called “The Land of Fire”  unless you’re aware or good in history or geography like Mr. Hubby. Anyway, it’s never in our plan but yes surprisingly this place is AMAZING. So many things to discover!  If you for some reason can’t go to Europe, this is an affordable & nearest destination to be coming from the Middle East or Asia and AustralAsia for us… we ticked all these boxes!

This is one of the best option when it comes to budget and travel time as it’s only 3 hours flight from Abu Dhabi.  Yes we came back just for a visit (school holidays) as hubby still working here.  It didn’t dissapoint us as this is our quick family bonding since March.

Azerbaijan is in Central Asia actually but the feeling when doing sightseeing is like you are in Europe! Amazingly I can see some similarities of every cobbled alleys to Italy and Switzerland. Their strip of boutique stores & hotels are similar to Paris as well as their hilly leafy side roads. Their building structures are both European and Russian influences as this Country used to be part of USSR. There’s more that surprises me is that majority is Muslims but they’re more open as if you are in Europe itself (within reason, no short shorts of course!) Sure, there are some women in their abayas but mostly they come from the neighboring Arab Countries and they also love to visit Baku according to some.  Their money is called Manat while in the UAE is Dirhams. So we always convert whatever we buy into dirhams to differentiate each and we found that some items like foods are a little cheaper in Baku than Abu Dhabi. Taxis are also cheaper but it’s not metered you need to haggle (just like in some parts of Asia!) or better ask the hotel reception or a local how much is the usual fare to and fro and agree with the driver before you enter their quaint cute violet cab or a converted normal car to a taxi. There’s Uber of course but we won’t be staying longer so if within 3-5 days we are ok to go and pay the usual taxis everywhere. They are either stationed outside hotels or tourist spots otherwise you can easily hail them anywhere. If you are planning to stay longer than 10 days asked the hotel or anybody to help you register otherwise you will be banned to come back here. I find that some tourist go “country hopping” because Azerbaijan is in the middle bordering Georgia, Armenia & Kazakhstan.

Baku City is surprisingly beautiful both old & modern architectural design adorned the City. Lot’s of historical sites within the City as well as the developed huge Milli Park where locals and tourist like us enjoyed strolling by day and night as there’s a huge modern mall and some themed Park fun activities for kids to enjoy! They have a very  long stretch of  bayside to stroll.  At night the Park becomes vibrant and lively with full of different colorful lights and landscapes and yes it’s relatively safe as long as you have your wits with you! It is interesting to discover Azerbaijan particularly Baku City. You must come to experience this yourself. Do not be afraid to explore other Countries you never heard before. Besides, there’s a blogger always there to discover it first so better check any information so you’re not totally ignorant about it.  I did, but I’m still surprised about this beautiful place, not to mention the Summer weather is so good. I can tolerate the peak hours heat and when the night falls it’s cooler that you may need a scarf or shawl otherwise it may be too cold for comfort especially strolling along the bay facing the Caspian Sea.  It can get very windy!

Stay tuned for more information on my next posts. I will feature every spots we went to and their significance. Thanks for the likes and comments if you have done so. Please click the FOLLOW button if you want to know more of our adventure Life as an expats, repats & travel addicts!

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Another home away from home!

Going back to Abu Dhabi after being away for more than 3 months makes me realized that I am actually missing my good life here as a mom and as a person. It took me awhile to adjust (not that easy) but I did and I started to be happy! I was busy with lot’s of things going on around me. School events, volunteering, watching my son doing his sports, meet ups with 3 groups of friends, family time, even errands I find it good as it’s my me time to be alone and do some houseworks and I do love cooking, little luxuries in life  (that we cannot do in NZ) like some brunching (in 5*hotels) with friends and family, theme parks, fine dining and more travels.

The lifestyle here that I became adjusted to really makes me wonder why life keeps giving us a crack after I finally settled in.  So yes, we’re back to New Zealand and so many things had happened while we were away for 4 years!! Life is not the same anymore or perhaps I am not the same anymore. (Sigh!)

Coming back here in AD for a quick visit so our family can be together again.  Life sometimes sucks being an expats but it also gives you a lot of opportunities and new perspective in life that we didn’t know before.

So shall we go back for longer period in the land of the desert and opportunity?  I don’t know.  Guess I just leave it for the fate to pick us up and go with the flow. It happened before so I won’t be surprised if it happened again.  So far all I know is… this is another home away from home!

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Hotel review: Novotel Lakeside, Queenstown NZ

the backside of hotel fronting the lake, vinnevefoto

This hotel serves as a second home to us almost every year visiting Queenstown since living in New Zealand and before we left last 2015. Now back home, of course, we visited first our favorite place & stayed in this hotel. It’s good for families though we saw a lot of groups filling up a big tourist bus. The hotel is fronting the lake, playgrounds & the Park. If you are keen to walk thru this Park there’s a way to Botanical Park so it’s a long walk indeed but full of beautiful nature and fresh air.

Restaurant, Parks and the Lake, vinneve foto

The bedroom and the views.

NovotelLakesideQtwn, vinnevefoto

Balcony viewNovotel, vinneve

Just a walking distance to a lot of tourist spots and restaurants.  It can get pricey so better book early as comes peak seasons this hotel can get full. If you are a member of Accor like we do they give you free welcome drinks and can enjoy it beside the fireplace.

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QtwnGondola, vinnevefoto

I have so many photos but I cannot put it all in as I need to save my space for later.  So this is it for now.  Thanks for reading and checking out my blog, appreciated.  Cheers!!

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Destination: Queenstown, Nz

On top QTWN, vinnevefoto

This is one of my fave City here in New Zealand. Even before we left in 2015 to be an expats in Abu Dhabi, we often travel to this awesome City every year since I started flying domestic. It’s stunning sceneries is something special plus there’s a lot of outdoor activities for families & single people too!

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On the way to Queenstown, vinneve

Queenstown is known as the “Adventure capital of the World” there’s a lot of activities here for adrenaline junkies, all types of indoor & outdoor activities & wholesome family adventure too for somebody like us whose not into “too much” thrill coz we have a child to take care of while we’re having fun!

Here are just a few activities that we either partake in or passing by for a snapshot opportunity.  Please note there are some more activities not on this list.

1. Playground just around the hotel.

near Queenstown Park, vinnevefoto

2. Visit Queenstown Park fronting the lake.

Maori carving, vinnevefoto

3. Join the gold diggers literally speaking! 😂 it’s in Arrowtown. If any luck you will get a wee bit of flakes and to let you know this is the same water that Gollum in LOTR had been seen fishing.

Arrowtown river, vinnevefoto

4. Visiting Arrowtown Lake District Museum. It may be smaller than any other museums you are used to but it’s full of “goldmine” history etc. and you can soak up the village history after just a few minutes’ walk.

ArrowtownMiningtown, vinnevefoto

5. Bungy Jumping actually originated in Vanuatu as part of their ritual perhaps thousands of years ago, but Nz is the Country who made it famous. AJ Hackett established the very first bungy site in Queenstown.

BungeeJumpingNZ, vinnevefoto

6. Gondolas & Luge. Families favorite! Rugged biking as well are held on top of this mountain.

Gondolas&Luge, vinnevefoto

7. Skydiving (indoor & outdoor) & Paragliding. If you’re afraid to do it alone there’s always a tandem guide to help or be with you!

ParaglidingNZ, vinnevefoto

8. Going through the Park showing kiwi birds & other reptiles.

KiwiBirdlifePark, vinnevefoto

9. Jetboat, Million Dollar Cruise and the oldest Steamship are on this waters. 

Jetboattours, vinnevefoto

10. Or if you aren’t tired enough, there’s always this stairs to make a play who comes first on top! Just like what my men did! 🙂

Around townQTWN, vinnevefoto

Be sure to pack yourselves a comfy shoe, a jacket (depends on the season) & water bottle for some fun and long walks as I may not include a waterfall hiking track on this as we don’t have enough time but it is just a walking distance from all these activities.  Just ask the locals where to find it as I just stumbled on it a few years back with my 6yrs old son and a 67-year-old father!  

I hope I give you some tips that you can use when you travel in stunning Queenstown!  Please comment if you have been here already and tell your story!  Cheers, and wait for my another post… Thanks!