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My husband Ryan and I had been dreaming about a European adventure for years, but when it came to deciding where to go on our honeymoon, we chose a different destination. Such a big trip would require a lot of planning time, leave and money that is hard to come by while also planning a wedding. Instead we chose somewhere closer to home where we could relax and enjoy each other’s company while still seeing the sights. That place was New Zealand.

Unlike a lot of places, I hadn’t seen a thousand postcard pictures, plus Ryan organised the whole thing, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I woke up every day without knowing what to expect and every day I was blown away by something new. We started our trip in Auckland:

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It was pretty and had lovely architecture but I was itching to get out of the city and see the natural wonders. We picked up our hire car and zoomed down to the Paeroa area, where we stayed in cabin-style accommodation at a cute winery.

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The highlight of this area was visiting the stunning Waitomo Caves (where unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures). You are guided through the amazing limestone caves until you reach a pitch black underground lake and are taken out on a rowboat to see what looks like a blanket of stars but is actually the ceiling completely covered in glowworms. It was a breathtaking sight I’ll never forget.

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New Zealand is known as the adventure destination of the world, but hell would freeze over before you’d ever get me to fling myself out of a plane or head-first off a bridge. Now, Zorbing on the other hand, was my kind of ‘extreme’ sport because it reminds me more of fun than of, say, suicide.

The thermal park at Rotorua was very smelly, of course, but incredible and eerie.

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As a big fan of early 20th century design, the art deco city of Napier was a definite highlight for me.

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We dined at a gorgeous church converted into a restaurant.

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It has to be said that we don’t mind the odd drop, so it was off to the wine region of Hawke’s Bay.

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Apart from wine, there’s also plenty of delicious icecream and cheese to be sampled.

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We finished our first of two weeks in a pretty little seaside town called Akaroa, which still retains the influence of its original French settlers.

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What a gorgeous view to wake up to!

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A highlight was swimming with dolphins.

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The landscape changes from rolling green hills to jagged snowy mountains as we head south to beautiful Lake Tekapo.

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This photo? Um, yeah it was taken from our hotel balcony …Tekapo-4

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All rugged up for some late-night star gazing.

I’m going to keep quiet and let the pictures do the talking about Queenstown here …Queenstown-2

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Luging down the mountain was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

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Enjoying a cocktail in a bar made entirely of ice.

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Just outside Queenstown is a quaint little former goldmining town called Arrowtown, chock-a-block with charming cafes and shops.

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We definitely kept the best ’til last. The Fjordlands are an incredible area with a striking combination of tropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains and island-dotted bays. Most tourists go to the more popular Milford Sound but, after soliciting advice from numerous locals, we opted for the quieter Doubtful Sound. Originally named Doubtful Harbour, it got its unusual name when cartographers misunderstood Captain Cook’s handwriting on a map to mean that’s what he had named the harbour, rather than noting his concerns about its suitability for use as a port of anchor.Doubtful-Sound-6

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Apart from the amazing views, there is plenty of wildlife to spot.Doubtful-Sound-13

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A leisurely boat ride along the Avon River in Christchurch was the perfect ending to our trip.Christchurch-4

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Christchurch is a very English looking city, with lots of gorgeous Tudor and Gothic architecture. We didn’t get to spend much time there, which saddens me as many of its most beautiful historic buildings have since been destroyed during the subsequent earthquake.

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Our honeymoon was Ryan’s first overseas trip and our first trip together that was longer than a weekend, so it was really special. New Zealand provided the perfect combination of relaxation and activities. We had the best time and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Ms Gingham says: I love seeing photos of New Zealand. It’s a country with so much natural beauty. Thanks to Alicia for sharing her beautiful honeymoon with us.

Hi, my name is Alicia and I am a paper addict. I love designing quirky invitations through my business Akimbo. I’m also the Atypical Type A, my blog where I share projects and inspiration for home, parties and weddings.

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Andrew and I have been lucky enough to travel to lots of different places around the world, so when it came to choosing a honeymoon destination, we found it quite difficult!

Being married in November helped to narrow down the choices, due to it being winter in many of the places we considered. We decided to head somewhere warmer, but it wasn’t a lazy honeymoon by the pool we had in mind. Instead we chose Hong Kong, one of my favourite places in the world, but also somewhere that Andrew had never visited.

It turned out to be an inspired choice. Andrew fell in love with the place just as much as I had previously, while I was reminded all over again just how wonderful Hong Kong is.

Hong Kong is a fascinating mix of traditional Eastern culture and modern Western influence and we experienced the best of both worlds during our two week honeymoon.

We stayed in a lovely little hotel in Kowloon. With seven million residents, real estate in Hong Kong is extremely expensive and hotel rooms are no exception. Our deluxe room at the four star Eaton Smart Hotel was tiny, but it was certainly cosy!

Prime Real Estate

We didn’t spend a lot of time in our hotel room anyway, as we had lots of exploring to do. We jumped straight into shopping at the Temple Street Night Markets, which were right near our hotel. The markets in Hong Kong are famous for their atmosphere and we thoroughly enjoyed haggling with the stallholders, who loved to joke with us despite their limited English. We did a lot of shopping at various markets and shopping centres during our honeymoon – in fact, we had to post some things home because they wouldn’t fit in our suitcases!

In Kansu Street, near the Temple Street Night Markets, we found dozens of fortune tellers waiting to tell us what our future held. Andrew and I both had our fortunes told by an elderly man who used a combination of numerology and palm reading. He was spookily accurate about our pasts and our personality traits, so hopefully his predictions for our future are correct too. Fame and fortune here we come!

Past, Present, Future

Another night we took a bus up to the famous Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong. Besides the breathtaking view, The Peak is also the home of Wonderfish! Spa. Wonderfish are tiny little sucker fish, which eat the dead and dry skin from your feet, leaving them beautifully smooth and soft. It took a little while to get over the creepiness of having fish swarm to our feet, and then we had to deal with the ticklishness, but once we were used to it we thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience.

That Tickles!

Also at The Peak is Madame Tussauds, where we had a wonderful time posing with the various celebrities and dignitaries.

Bond, James Bond

We spent many days and nights just wandering the streets, and we would always find something new and different. It didn’t seem to matter what time we went out, there were always hundreds of people around and we never saw the streets empty!

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In amongst the markets, shopping centres, hotels and camera stores, we would often come across something to remind us that we were in a very foreign country … like dried lizards on a stick in a traditional medicine store!

Although we tried to do as much exploring as we could and not just stick to the usual tourist spots, there were a couple of things we simply had to visit. Ocean Park is Hong Kong’s animal theme park, most famous for its resident giant pandas. We were very lucky to see the pandas when they were very animated and playing up to the crowd.

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The seals and sea lions were also fabulous and put on a very entertaining show for us.

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Image courtesy of Hody Images

The animals were adorable and I couldn’t resist buying a panda hat and looking like a complete tourist!

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We also stayed at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and spent two days at Hong Kong Disneyland. Although it’s a relatively new park and quite small for a Disneyland, we had a wonderful time meeting all of the Disney characters.

Meeting Goofy

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We finished off our honeymoon with a couple of nights in Macau, which is famous for its casinos and nightlife. We stayed at the ultra-luxurious MGM Grand Macau which was incredible. Our hotel room was about six times the size of the one we had in Hong Kong!

The MGM Grand Macau

It’s obvious there is a lot of money in Macau – I even had a martini with real gold flakes in it at the bar one night!

All That Glitters Is Gold

Our two week honeymoon was wonderful and we came home with two suitcases full of shopping and a lifetime of memories. Hong Kong is an amazing place and we can’t wait to visit again!

Kelly says: “I was married in November 2010 after a 20 month engagement. I loved wedding planning so much I started my own wedding community called SaySo Weddings“.

Ms Gingham says: “Hong Kong, although not your usual honeymoon destination, is such a great place. The city is alive at all hours and there’s so much to do … and when you’ve finished shopping, you can go on to shop some more! It’s a hard life …”

Inexpensive Thailand is already a popular choice for honeymooners, so narrowing down the abundance of choices for places to stay can be very difficult.  But if you’re looking for something that combines culture and class with just a little bit of craziness, I think I’ve found just the spot!

Patong is the beating epicentre for entertainment in Phuket, but just a few kilometres south is Kata – which is perfect for honeymooners (in my humble opinion!).  We recommend Sawasdee Village, because from your first contact with resort staff – your driver – you realise Sawasdee Village is setting the standard of service in Phuket very high.  If it is your first time to Thailand I recommend arranging private transfers from the airport until you are more accustomed to bartering and the local transport.

Sawasdee Village is owned by an Australian businessman who really knows what travellers want – to relax.  Incense, lush tropical gardens, a swim-up bar, comfortable bed, friendly staff – all wrapped up in a classy combination of traditional Thai culture and architecture and comforts from home.  In terms of price, Sawasdee Village is above average, but worth every penny. If you’re looking for something cheaper, try a hotel in the Centara chain or some of the smaller places along the esplanade of Kata.  For something more upmarket, Movenpick, the Hilton or the Marriott looked like excellent choices from what we could see.

In Kata, you don’t have the constant craziness of Patong or Bangkok, but there is still plenty to do to fill your time.  Generally, shops and restaurants are a little slow to get going, but are open until around midnight every night.  In terms of shopping, the best advice I can give is to get started when the shops first open (around 10 am).  Thai people believe the first sale of the day will bring good luck, so it’s an opportune time for travellers to barter hard and bring them this so-called “good luck”.  Word is you can barter just about everywhere, but we didn’t bother in the large shopping centres and restaurants.  If you’re looking to pick up cheap clothes, accessories and souvenirs, stick to the street markets and stalls instead of the shopping centres.  There are also fabulous night markets in Old Phuket Town.

If you want to keep your food and drink costs down too, peruse the menus of the different restaurants around your hotel until you find something in your price range – they will all haggle hard for your business anyway!  You can also buy cheaper alcohol from 7-11, such as a $1 bottle of beer!

On most occasions, I opted for Western-style foods such as pizza and club sandwiches because I don’t like spicy food and didn’t want to risk it.  In saying that, my husband ate a lot of traditional fare and commented at how mild they were. Outside of the three dining options at Sawasdee Village, we can also recommend the Two Chef restaurants and a Japanese restaurant at the Central Festival Shopping Centre called Zen.  Wherever you go, you will find a variety of foods to choose from.  My only warning – there isn’t much wine or champagne to choose from and it is often very expensive compared to what we would pay at home.  I started to have withdrawals and ended up splurging $30 for a Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay!

Culture is very important in Thailand.  It is polite to say hello to everyone, particularly if they have said hello to you first.  As a female, to say hello to anyone is “sawadee-ka”, and for males, “sawadee-cup”.  Joy, the Pool Bar Waiter at Sawasdee, is always up for a chat and can tell you a lot about the Thai culture, local customs and some good stories. He loves to hear new English words (“serviette” really threw him!) and is collecting foreign currency. He told us it is very impolite to say bad things about the King or Queen of Thailand, so it is best not to comment on politics or the Royal Family.  If you visit a temple (known as a “Wat”), women should show respect by wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants, and not stare or look at the Monks.  Be sure to make a donation if you visit a Wat.

If you’re wanting to do some looking around, you can book a tour through reception or you can go and barter with the tour operators on the street.  Moped/motorbike hire is really cheap but unless you are an experienced biker I would advise against it – I saw a lot of painful-looking gravel rash!  Phi Phi Island is gorgeous as they all say, and if you stay at the Phi Phi Island Beach Resort and Spa, be sure to listen out for the amazing acoustic band that plays at the cocktail bar during the evenings. Their rendition of Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is breath-taking.

Some good resources to help with your trip are the Lonely Planet guides, particularly the Phuket book.  According to the Travel Doctor you should have Hepatitis A and B vaccinations, as well as Tyhoid, Pertussis (Whooping Cough) and Diptheria, and the Measles, Mumps and Rubella shot.  To avoid getting sick, don’t touch the dogs (no matter how much you miss your own!) and avoid drinking the water unless it has been boiled (that includes the ice).  Having said that, I drank many, many cocktails with ice and the only time I was sick was from my hangover.

Wishing you an excellent trip to Thailand for your honeymoon!

Katie is a 24 year old ”wifey” currently working in public relations for the Queensland Government. She has (not so) secret ambitions to be a writer. Katie currently resides in Brisbane with her hubby, two dogs, two chickens and now, for some ungodly reason, a kitty cat. Her favourite cocktail is a genuine Pina Colada.

Ms Gingham says: Thanks to Katie for not only sharing her honeymoon snapshots with us but also giving us some handy knowledge for planning our trip.