James Fong

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James Fong

James Fong

Canada

Aug232013

Tour/Activity

Wellington's Lord of the Rings Locations Tour including Lunch

Wellington, New Zealand

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

The tour was delivered by Wellington Rover Tours and our guide was a very sci-fi/fantasy movie/tv geek. Of course, none of the sets still exist and the locations were returned to their original state. We were able to stand where the Hobbits end up after their fall down the hill and when Frodo tells everyone to "get off the road!". We were also able to walk through the forest where the Rivendell set was built. And we were able to walk through where the Isengard path was built when Gandalf goes to Isengard to seek the council of Saruman. Unfortunately, Helms Deep and Minas Tirith was built in a quarry and it is private property, so you can't go into it. We were able to see the River Anduin where Faramir recollects Boromir's body floating in the boat and where Aragorn washes ashore and Brego wakes him up to bring him to Helm's Deep. The Weta Cave is pretty cool as you get to see a short documentary and taken around the "Window into Workshop" exhibition by someone who actually works for Weta, and of course, have the opportunity to buy some Weta souvenirs. While there are no sets to see, it is pretty cool to be able to see some of the shooting locations -- whenever I see the movies now, I'll always be able to point out the locations where I also stood. I rate this 4 stars for LOTR fans.

My Photos

  • Outside the Weta Cave
  • Get off the road!

Aug182013

Tour/Activity

Blue Mountains Nature and Wildlife Day Tour from Sydney

Sydney, Australia

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

This is a very jam packed tour. I paid for the lunch and Scenic World (Skyway, Cableway, Railway). The first stop was for the Aboriginal Cultural Center and Echo Point -- the aboriginal "show/welcome" took 20 minutes so that only left 20 minutes to take in the vistas at Echo Point. The second stop was at Scenic World, where we had 2 hours -- that seems like a long time, but it isn't when you have to wait in line for the various cable cars. If you want to do all 3, don't spend much time on the Scenic Walkway -- largely go from the bottom of the Scenic Railway to the Scenic Cableway to come back up. You could do the Scenic Skyway before or after. Also note that the Blue Mountains area was notably colder than Sydney and a jacket/sweater was a must for August. The third stop was for 50 minutes for lunch at the Loaves and Dishes -- if you want to explore the small town more, plan to bring a lunch so you can eat on-the-go. We arrived for lunch around 1:15pm so you might want to bring a snack to tide you over until then. The fourth stop was for 55 minutes at Featherdale Wildlife Park - that's about enough time to quickly visit most animals and take some pictures. I hadn't originally paid for the ferry ride, but I paid the $8.50 on board to go down the Parramatta river, which had stops in Darling Harbour and then Circular Quay. We got in to Circular Quay around 6:30pm, so it was a long day from the hotel pickup at 7:15am and then tour start around 8:15am. I wish I had more time at Scenic World and Featherdale Wildlife park, but if you only have a day to pack it all in, then this is a quick way of seeing a little at each stop.

My Photos

  • Sleeping Koala
  • Echo Point

Aug172013

Tour/Activity

Sydney Opera House Guided Backstage Tour

Sydney, Australia

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

This is expensive relative to the regular tours that go on periodically throughout the day - $150 vs $35. But it is the only way to go "backstage" and they only take through a small number of people each day. Our tour guide took our small group of 10 into each theatre - the larger ones for opera/ballet, concert/symphony, and the 3 smaller ones for drama, experimental theatre, and lectures. They take your breakfast order at the beginning - Australian, Healthy, and Vegetarian with both a cold drink and hot drink. It was very big and filling and eaten in the "Green Room" where performers would eat later in the day. It's a great experience to stand on the stages and see it from the performer viewpoint. I took in a performance of La Traviata later in the evening after seeing part of the scenery stored backstage and standing in the orchestra pit and on the stage earlier in the day.

My Photos

  • Breakfast in the Sydney Opera House Green Room
  • On Stage at the Sydney Opera House

Aug112013

Tour/Activity

Phillip Island: Penguins, Koalas and Kangaroos Day Tour from Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

The start at Maru Koala and Animal Park was great. I paid extra for the Koala encounter with photo - he was so soft and furry! From there, I tried to feed the wallabies and kangaroos but they were pretty full from all the other tourists. I paid for the Ultimate Penguin option and had to be dropped off by 5pm to be ready for my Ranger tour guide so I missed the Nobbies. We got binoculars, a headset, and a seat for sitting on the beach -- we were the closest ones to the beach with no one in front of us. From there, we went over where the Penguin+ folks watched the penguins come off the beach through another path. Our Ranger tour guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Dinner afterwards in Cowes was good too -- I had the Kangaroo fillet at the Italian restaurant. Kangaroo has a strong taste as does venison and lamb and I enjoyed it. I did a variation of this tour back in 2004/2005 and took it again as where else can you see the penguins come home from eating fish all day heading to their burrows to rest.

My Photos

  • Koala Encounter

Feb242013

Tour/Activity

Singapore Zoo Breakfast with Orangutans

Singapore, Singapore

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

The price is very good as the breakfast buffet is about $30 SGD by itself. You don't quite eat "amongst orangutans", but you eat nearby and can take a picture in front of them. The photo they take is $35 SGD, but they allow you to take pictures yourself as well.

My Photos

  • Breakfast Near Orangutans

Feb222013

Tour/Activity

Singapore Night Safari with optional Buffet Dinner

Singapore, Singapore

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Truly a unique experience as you walk the park in very low lighting and are able to see the animals moving about/eating. The time is a bit short, but you can do the tram and then walk all 4 paths if you're quick about it. Pictures require low light / night setting in order to come out ok.

My Photos

  • Female lions on the lookout

Feb172013

Tour/Activity

Singapore City Tour with optional Singapore Flyer

Singapore, Singapore

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I took this tour on the first day I arrived. The bus was clean, the tour guide was knowledgeable, and there were several stops for photos - Chinatown, Little India, Merlion/Harbourfront, and Orchid Garden. It was a great way to get an introduction and orientation to the city.

My Photos

  • Merlion in Marina Bay area

May242012

Tour/Activity

Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour

Madrid, Spain

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I highly recommend this tour to anyone that wants to have a taste of local cuisine. Our guide, Paul, was very knowledgeable and accomodating asking us what sort of food and drink we'd like to try. I suggest doing this tour early in your trip so that you can come back to some of the recommended places in your later days in Madrid. Be prepared to cover the cost of food and drink in the subsequent establishments as we went to 5 tapas bars and only the first is covered by your tour fee. Note that the tour description does say this. And make sure you don't eat an afternoon snack to leave as much room for the food and drink on tour!

May202012

Tour/Activity

Madrid Sightseeing Tour and Bullfight at Las Ventas Bullring

Madrid, Spain

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This is a must-see cultural event. In this day and age, big cities are looking more and more alike with global brands everywhere, but a bullfight is uniquely Spanish. Note that the "shade" seats also mean protection from the rain! We bought "sun" seats but it was raining and we got soaked. Be sure to pick up the padded seat cushions for a couple Euros as you're sitting on concrete otherwise. And note that there are 3 bullfighters (with different levels of experience and style) each fighting 2 bulls. Not for the squeamish though, but a worthwhile view into spanish culture and heritage.

Mar252011

Tour/Activity

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London

London, United Kingdom

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

The tour guide was very knowledgeable, friendly, and helped people with how to get to their next destination after the tour was over. The only negative is that we would have liked to spend more time at Windsor Castle and the surrounding shops, as well as at Bath and its surrounding shops. While Stonehenge was a bit overrated, I can check it off my list of things to see from the "Ancient World". The free audio guides provided by all 3 locations were great, but you don't have time to listen to all the interesting information.

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