We spent some time in Palmerston North last week. This is the first time I’ve explored this much maligned town and I was agreeably surprised. The town centre surrounds The Square, which has pleasant gardens and plenty of benches. There are interesting shops and cafes fragrant with coffee. There is a fantastic bookshop ( and I had a long, interesting conversation with the proprietors of Pork Chop Hill clothing ( about the origin of the name of their business. The art gallery and museum ( are well worth a visit. Best of all are the gardens and walking/cycling paths along the Manawatu River (see pic above). There is a paved path all the way along the river and it is well-used, judging by the number of cyclists I saw. There are also walking paths through the bush between the gardens of Victoria Esplanade and the river. These are a delight because of the dense foliage and the cacophony of birdsong. Go to Palmy – you may be as surprised as I was.

Wellington on a beautiful day


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!

Chiang Mai


I’m not sure how many temples there are in Chiang Mai but it seems like there’s one on every street corner! And each one seems more splendid than the last. The temple in this photo is Wat Phra Singh, which we visited first because it was closest to our hotel. Our guidebook says it houses the most revered Buddha image in Chiang Mai and that it is an excellent example of Lanna architecture. It is certainly very impressive with its bright gold stupa and immaculate, peaceful gardens. We visited many temples on our walk around the old city and it was awe inspiring. The displays in the Lanna Folklife Museum expertly explain the religious beliefs and customs of the northern Thai people. After our visit there, we were better informed about what we were looking at in the temples. The people watching was good too: robed monks mingled with locals bringing their offerings and saying their prayers as well as tourists from all over the world. It is all very relaxed and inclusive.

Penang for Diwali


We spent the Diwali weekend in Penang staying at the beautiful Eastern and Oriental Hotel. It turned out to be a wonderful weekend weather-wise. Clear blue skies in the morning and huge clouds building for the afternoon downpour, which kept things cool and fresh. We’ve never seen the Strait of Malacca look so blue! We swam in both the pools at the hotel, ate delicious food and wandered the narrow streets of George Town. Exploring the Pinang Peranankan Mansion was a highlight. This is a restored 19th century house that belonged to wealthy Baba (a locally acculturated Straits Chinese businessman) and is filled with collections of photos, furniture, jewellery and china. Well worth a visit.