Auckland Travel Blog: Part 2

New Zealand Travel Blog: Melbourne Highlights & Impressions

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 1

The President Hotel in Downtown Auckland

After getting off the SkyBus, it took me about 5 minutes to reach the President Hotel, which is located in the Central Business District (CBD) in the heart of downtown Auckland.

When I booked this hotel months ago, this used to be a Best Western Hotel. Then all of a sudden, while I was in Melbourne I received an email from Best Western Australasia that the President Hotel had decided to leave the Best Western Group. My options were to either book another Best Western Hotel in Auckland or stay with the President Hotel as they would honour already booked reservations, so I decided to keep my reservations at the President hotel.

The President Hotel is nothing fancy but an OK hotel. The lobby area was unimpressive and so was the room. My room had a window, but I was not able to open the curtains and enjoy the sunlight because another building was blocking any sort of view whatsoever and it was the backside of that building, so it was very dark.

The best feature of this hotel is its location. I had no problem grabbing coffee or food because within a block or two there are many restaurants and street food vendors. There was even a Countdown – NZ Supermarket right next door where I went many times to buy whatever I needed.

I never got to try the hotel’s dining or buffet breakfast in the hotel because it made no sense when so many options to eat were available right next door.

Another feature I enjoyed was that I was able to keep an eye on the street sitting inside the lobby, so I wouldn’t miss my tour pickup. The Sky Tower is visible from the hotel and you can walk to it within a few minutes.

New Zealand Travel Blog: Auckland Highlights & Impressions

Auckland Travel Blog: Part 1

At the AKL Airport

Just like my experience in Melbourne, I didn’t have to face any human immigration officers at the airport. The automated machines process immigration for select visa-free countries called eGate and I was able to pass through immigration without any issue. Traveling with only one carry-on also helped.

SkyBus to Downtown Auckland

The most affordable way to reach downtown from the Auckland Airport is to take the SkyBus. You can purchase tickets ahead of your trip online or at the airport. The ticket booth is located right at the bus pickup spot at the international terminals in the Auckland Airport. Look for the SkyBus pickup spot and ticket booth near Door 8 at the international terminals.

The was a young female employee who greeted me at the bus spot and she showed me where to wait and mentioned the next bus would arrive in 10 minutes. I was the first one there waiting for that bus, but later on more customers were coming in.

If you buy a ticket ahead of time, you get discounts. I paid only NZD $17.50 on the SkyBus website; you will find tools there to figure where you need to get off based on your address. My destination was the President Hotel at 35 Victoria Street West, Auckland downtown. So I needed to get off at 175 Queen St Stop 7051.

The bus operator was extremely friendly and once I told him where I needed to get off, he made sure I got off at the right spot and explained to me that I still had to walk a couple of blocks to the hotel. He was my first hands-on experience on how nice and helpful New Zealanders are.

Qantas Business Class Review – Melbourne to Auckland - Airbus A330-200

Qantas International Business Class Lounge

After completing airport security, it was time to experience the Qantas Business Class lounge. I was not expecting this lounge located on the basement level; it took me a while to find it.

The Qantas International Business Class Lounge is huge and you will find everything, including a business centre with printers, a kid’s zone, and a shower facility. I didn’t have to use any of them; I was rushing to complete taking video and pictures, so I could have some time to eat or drink a coffee.

There were plenty of food and snacks. I saw the alcohol and coffee sections were impressive too; there was even barista coffee.

Qantas Business Class Airbus A330-200

I was expecting Qantas Airbus A330-200 to have one of the world’s best business class suites and I was not disappointed. Each suite is separated with a privacy divider and has direct isle access, regardless of whether it’s a window seat or not.

I had a window seat and it made my journey even better. Wrapped in black leather, these seats convert to a 2-metre lie-flat bed. There were numerous storage options and there was a big side table to keep items such as a laptop or camera. Even the spacious footwell can be used to stack a small suitcase or carry-on luggage.

Qantas’s business class food was great. To start with, I chose seared ocean trout with charred corn, jalapeno lime, and coriander. My main course was red braised chicken with stir fried gai tan, shiitake mushrooms, black beans, and jasmine rice. I had Maggie Beer salted honey ice cream as a dessert. This ice cream looked like an Australian specialty and I had never seen it before.

The Quantas Business suite entertainment system offered a 16-inch touch screen monitor and there were lots of Asian and Western options available.  16-inch seemed to be the perfect size to watch a movie right in front of my face.

There was no Amenity Kit provided on this flight. It was probably too short a flight (roughly 3.5 hours) for an Amenity Kit.

Overall, my first experience with Qantas business class was pleasant and I found nothing to complain about. I definitely will not hesitate to fly Qantas again in the future if the opportunity arises.

Australia Travel Blog: Part 7 - Qantas International Business Lounge

At Melbourne Airport: Going to New Zealand

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 1

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 2

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 3

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 4

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 5

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 6

At Melbourne (MEL) airport I went to the Quantas Business Class counter to get my boarding pass. I was expecting a lot more hospitality like what I got at EVA AIR counter, but it was nowhere near that. Actually, it felt like an economy class counter. Once I was done at the counter, I was heading to the security gate.

Unexpectedly, I was chosen, along with a couple of female flight attendants, for a special random security check. All airports do this kind of random checking, but this was my first time I had this experience pulling me out from the regular queue.

All of us were taken to a small room, asked to open our luggage and lay it flat. I did what I was told. A security person went through my bag and ran a detector. It was very quick. After finishing there, I had the idea that I didn’t have to go through the regular security check, but I was wrong. I had to go through the usual security check again, but this part was quick as well.

Where Is the Lounge?

Quantas Business Class travelers to foreign destinations get to experience the Qantas International Business Lounge. It took me a while to get to the lounge because I was looking for the lounge on the ground level.

But the lounge is actually located on the basement level 1. Quantas Business Class lounge is used by Quantas, Oneworld partner airlines, and even non-alliance partners such as China Eastern.

In the next post, I will talk little more about the Quantas Business Class lounge. I am flying to Auckland, New Zealand, but I will be back to Australia again, in Sydney from Auckland.

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 6

Going Back in Time: 1850 - Sovereign Hill Gold Mine in Ballarat

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 1

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 2

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 3

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 4

Melbourne Travel Blog: Part 5

One of the attractions in Melbourne you must visit is the Sovereign Hill Gold Mine in the suburb of Ballarat. A small city from the 1850 gold rush in Australia is preserved as it was back in those days. You will be able to go back in time and experience a gold mine city.

Visiting the whole city would take a full day, so I rushed to finish everything as fast as I could. Some of the places you can experience in Sovereign Hill as they were in the past are:

- A real underground gold mine and the ability to ride a real mine tram

- Original working conditions and mining equipment

- A real gold melt & pour to make a $100,000 gold bar

- Blacksmiths and traditional craftsmen

- Bakery, bank, blacksmith, post office, grocer, tentmaker, tinsmith, bank, post office, candle-dipping shop, lolly shop, stables, nine-pin bowling saloon, library and various other shops on the main street

- Houses, tents, water well, and gardens from the old days

- 1850s-style hotels, schools and a theatre with goldfields entertainers

- a gold museum is also located right across from the front exit

I spent my whole day videoing as much as possible at Sovereign Hill and will post these on You Tube.

Chasing Kangaroos at the Lysterfield Lake Park

Going to Australia without seeing kangaroos is like going to Egypt without visiting the pyramids. I encountered my first kangaroo sighting in the Lysterfield Lake Park, which is located in the greater Melbourne area.

There are 60+ different species of kangaroos. Some of them are big and some of them are small. The ones I was chasing in the park to take pictures and videos are the small ones. They wouldn’t let me get very close. I saw some of them carrying babies in the pouch located on their bellies.