Island Hopping Around the Pacific

We’re back! It was a whirlwind 24-day summer trip. This was our itinerary: LA – Brisbane- Bangkok – Nagoya/Kyoto- Guam – Cairns- Brisbane- Fiji-LA. Here are some stats for perspective: 10 flights, 7 airports, 4 countries, over 25,000 miles and countless memories. If you’ve seen our other travel itineraries, you know we’re not slow travelers. We prefer to see and experience as much as possible in our limited vacation time. Some call it crazy but we like it that way. Although after this trip, my family may disagree with me.

OZ_Asia Trip

Mapping created through www.travellerspoint.com

Thank you to some of you who sent me messages asking if we were okay since I hadn’t posted. I haven’t written a post in weeks and I did minimal updates on social media and honestly, it felt good and liberating. After blogging for almost three years, posting almost weekly, getting caught up and promoting on social media on top of a full-time job and parenthood, I really needed this break and time with my family.

Though, my travel blogging mind was still working while traveling. I still thought of various ways to share a particularly place with all of you. I’m excited to share these highlights from our trip. But, I’ll be writing more about each attraction and experience in depth in the months ahead (with a lot of pictures, of course).

Sigatoka River Fiji

The Land Down Under

Our first stop was Brisbane, Australia – the country’s third largest city. It’s usually not on many people’s radar when visiting Australia. So, why Brisbane or as the locals call it, Brissy? My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon in 2000 in Sydney and Melbourne and we wanted to see other parts of “Oz”. But, the main reason was weather. Since it was winter season in the Southern Hemisphere, we wanted to be some place a bit warmer and Brisbane has milder weather. We were out in our t-shirts while the southern part of Australia was freezing.

Brisbane Australia

The South Bank Parklands is Brisbane’s cultural destination. It is a great place to visit or hang out with an enviable location by the river and filled with museums, attractions (including the Wheel of Brisbane), parks and even a beach in the middle of the city.

Wheel of Brisbane

One of the highlights for us was a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Touted as the “world’s first and largest koala sanctuary” and with over 130 koalas, there is no shortage of adorable koalas here. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle these cuties?
Lone Pine Koalas

They also had other animals native to Australia like the emu, tasmanian devil, cassowary and wombats. We spent hours here and a lot of it was spent trying to hand feed kangaroos and wallabies. I cannot wait to share our adventures here.{update: see our Koala Cuddling and Kangaroo feeding post}

Lone Pine Kangaroos

We stopped at Cairns on the way home to get a taste of tropical Australia and for the Great Barrier Reef. We loved our two visits to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. We enjoyed learning how to throw spears and returning boomerangs among other things from the Tjapukai Aboriginals. This was such a great way for the whole family to learn about the indigenous rainforest people in a fun environment and with a great program for kids.

Tjapukai boomerang spear throwingFor a completely different experience, we returned the day after for a dinner and dance show at the cultural park. The traditional dances show, story time and even learning how to make fire were highlights for us. The kids enjoyed mingling with the performers too.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park night

The best way to see Cairns from above is through the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This ride took us on a magnificent journey over the tropical rainforest canopy and through various stations to learn about this unique environment.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

We loved the scenic lookouts including this one of Barron Falls. Since it was their dry season, it wasn’t flowing heavily but still a stunning sight to see.

Barron Falls Australia

Our Skyrail ride ended at the “village in the rainforest”, Kuranda, which was a charming place to shop and wander around. We got down from the mountain by riding the refurbished train carriages on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. But, the best part of the ride was passing through the tropical rainforest and greeted by amazing views. We highly recommend combining these three attractions for an incredible experience in Cairns.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

We ended our trip in Australia with a day trip to one of the islands within the Great Barrier Reef (the world’s largest coral reef system). Fitzroy Island was such a wonderful place to spend the day which included a visit to a turtle rehabilitation center, a sea trampoline, snorkeling, hiking, coral viewing and an afternoon at Nudey Beach (picture below). It’s really not what its name implies.

Fitzroy Island Nudey Beach

The Asia Stopover

Bangkok was a short layover at their impressive airport. The city was supposed to be a 4-day stop for us but my husband was too paranoid with the political situation. It was disappointing to be so close but not see the city. One of these days, I will finally visit you, Bangkok! Though, I’m happy I still got my mango and sticky rice and a cheap massage after a long flight.

Bangkok Airport

Nagoya is Japan’s 3rd largest city and frankly, was not on my places to see. It became a convenient layover stop but I’m so glad we got the chance to visit. The highlight of our visit here was to Nagoya Castle. At one time, this was one of the largest castles in Japan but most of its buildings were burned down during a World War II air raid. There is a good museum inside the castle but the characters we saw around the castle made this visit much more interesting.

Nagoya Castle

We were so excited to finally ride the Shinkasen or bullet train in Japan. The 66 miles (107 km) from Nagoya to Kyoto only took 35 minutes. It is amazing how fast these trains go at most 240–320 km/h (150–200 mph). Kyoto was such a great city to explore and such a contrast to Tokyo’s metropolis. This was old Japan at its finest with so many well-preserved and beautiful shrines and temples.

shinkansen japan

Our first stop was the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji. This stunning Zen temple’s top two floors are entirely covered in gold leaf. It was very crowded here with tour buses and school field trips but my husband managed to take this picture with not too many distractions.

Kyoto Golden Pavilion

Our most memorable time in Kyoto was a hike through the thousands of vermilion torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. A planned leisurely visit turned into a 3-hour hike through the woods and up to the top of sacred Mount Inari at 765 feet (233 meters).

Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine torii

The Pacific Islands

The main reason for this trip (even though we took the longer way to get there) was actually to see my family and friends in Guam. Read my intro to Guam post if you want to know more about one of my childhood homes. And the blogging Gods smiled upon me when this post went semi-viral a couple of weeks ago among my fellow islanders and gave me the biggest blog traffic numbers ever.

Guam sunset

This was a first visit for my husband and kids. I know that’s hard to believe and trust me, I’ve gotten plenty of grief about it through the years. Guam also isn’t the easiest or cheapest place to visit. But, we finally made it and my husband and kids loved it and can’t wait to return. For my kids, riding a water buffalo or carabao, which is still used in some parts of Guam for farming, was a truly “cool and awesome” experience.

Guam carabao

I was reminded of the laid back island lifestyle I had long forgotten and wish I can sometimes replicate in my hectic world. This was taken at Two Lover’s Point which is one of the island’s main attractions.

Guam Two Lover's Point

It was also fun to discover some places in Guam I never knew existed despite its small size. We enjoyed a relaxing jungle river cruise and were rewarded with beautiful sceneries like these. Most of my family and friends haven’t even ventured here. See an overview of our Guam trip.

Guam Talofofo River cruise

We ended our island hopping trip in the Fijian Islands. Fiji has 333 islands and we managed to visit only three of them. It’s hard to forget cultural performances that leave you in awe like this one during our cruise to Robinson Crusoe Island.

Robinson Crusoe Island fire dancers

Cultural experiences were a huge part in our visit to Fiji. But, there was also some adventure including this fun and exciting ride on a speedboat on Fiji’s longest river. We have quite a few videos to share with this ride.

Sigatoka River Safari Fiji

But, the best part was visiting a Fijian village, having lunch prepared by the locals and interacting with them. This is one of my favorite pictures from our trip and it still brings back a lot of emotions for me. This was an unforgettable experience that affected our whole family.

Fiji with kids

Relaxing for a few days in an exotic, tropical paradise was a fitting end to this trip. We spent our last day at South Sea Island relaxing in these hammocks and enjoying Fiji’s warm, crystal clear waters.

South Sea Island Fiji

I hope you enjoyed seeing our travel highlights for now and are inspired to venture into these lesser known and visited places. You can see some other photos on our Instagram and FB page.  Sometimes, it still feels like these past few weeks were a dream. I look forward to sharing our stories and tips with you in the coming weeks and months.

Which places or attractions here are you most curious about? Have you visited any of these places?

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