Wellington on a beautiful day

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It is a Kiwi cliché that there is nothing to beat Wellington on a beautiful day. Like all clichés, it is true. I’ve just spent a weekend in our capital city and on my last day, the clouds and rain retreated, the wind died down and the sunshine turned the sky a bright antipodean blue. The main reason for my visit was the He Tohu exhibition at the National Library. An exquisite rimu walk-in treasure box encases three of the most important New Zealand constitutional documents – the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi and the Women’s Suffrage Petition. Apart from the spine-tingling experience of seeing the actual documents, there is an excellent interactive exhibition where one can find out more about each document and the people who signed them. I highly recommend it. I also caught up with two dear Wellingtonian friends who played tour guides and took me to some of their favourite places. Go to Wellington – you won’t regret it, especially if the sun is shining!

Preserving the past

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Chinese seafarers were aware of Penang as early as the 15th century. Settlers from Sumatra arrived in Penang in the 18th century and in 1771 the sultan of Kedah signed an agreement with the British East India Company. Penang was also the capital of the Straits Settlements (which included Malacca and Singapore) for a while. One can almost feel the layers of history when one wanders through the narrow, winding streets of George Town and in 2008 it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. We visited Penang again a couple of weeks ago and had a delicious dinner in the Kebaya restaurant, which is part of the Seven Terraces Hotel – a row of seven restored 19th century Anglo-Chinese terraced houses (go to http://www.seventerraces.com/web/aboutus.htm to find out more). Investment banker Chris Ong, who grew up in Penang, and his business partner have done a wonderful thing here – he is passionate about his Baba heritage and the hotel and restaurant showcase his personal collection of Straits Chinese porcelain (for an interview with Chris Ong go to http://www.themalaymailonline.com/travel/article/10-things-about-chris-ong-hotelier-who-champions-penangs-heritage-shophouse).

Marvellous Majestic

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I’ve just had my second birthday in Malaysia and we celebrated by booking into the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Because the room they gave us smelled strongly of smoke (non-smoking signs are routinely ignored in Malaysia, where smoking is endemic and there are no penalties for breaching non-smokers’ rights!) they moved us into a room just like the one in the photo above. I guess it’s the best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. After a swim in the lovely pool, we decided to order dinner in so that we could enjoy the beautiful room. Then they brought me a birthday cake – they had seen it was my birthday from my ID when we checked in. Such a lovely day and I highly recommend the hotel.

Kiwi kindness

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We have received so much generosity from family and friends since we’ve been back in New Zealand – from comfortable accommodation and delicious meals to meeting for a coffee or lunch and a catch-up chat. We’ve travelled around from Awhitu to Auckland to Ohaupo to Raglan and back to Auckland, all in superb summer weather. We’ve experienced kindness from Kiwis we had not previously met. Like Lois who runs the Pollok gallery and cafe – she made us coffees and while we enjoyed them in the courtyard, she sat and chatted like we were old friends. Like the woman who came across me sitting on a bench overlooking Manu Bay where Jim was out in the surf. She asked if I was OK and after I’d reassured her, she told me that she often meets people up there who are lonely and not OK and she takes them into town for a coffee. How amazing is she! You’re probably wondering about the kitten in the denuded Christmas tree in the photo above. She belongs to our friends in whose lovely home we stayed last weekend. She crawled into my arms, sleepy and purring, at the end of a perfect day.