The day started off with two alarms which we promptly ignored as we opted to sleep in till about 8am (yes, this is my definition of sleeping in). We got up, braving the cold, and got dressed for the breakfast of champions – jam toast. After a quick bite to eat and an oddly coffee-flavoured cup of tea, we headed to the concierge to help us book a full day tour for Day 5. We’d opted for the Auckland City Tour and Wilderness Tour with Time Unlimited but the hotel hadn’t had any prior experience with them so we thought we’d go with either GrayLine Tours or Bush and Beach Tours since they all offer almost the same package (1, 2, 3).
Tour booked, we then walked to Sky Tower, which was conveniently located right behind the hotel.
The highest observation decks are closed for renovation till the end of Sept 2015 but the 51st floor is just as good a floor as any to take in all of the city’s beauty. From the tower we could see all the main attractions, despite being super cloudy that day- Auckland War Memorial Museum, Devonport, Westhaven Marina, Auckland Harbour Bridge, Albert Park, Aotea Square and even Rangitoto Island!
It was amazing how close everything seemed! The added bonus of going up Sky Tower is that even if you’re not the daredevil type and would rather pass on the Sky Walk or the Sky Jump, you can still watch people jump right before your eyes. As someone standing there said, “Blink and you’ll miss it!”
We opted to forego sitting in the cafe on the 50th floor and instead headed down to the souvenir shop, where I picked up the most important thing – postcards to send my penpals! We headed back towards the hotel,but not after picking up some much needed groceries from the convenience store – located conveniently right opposite the hotel, and grabbing lunch at…wait for it…Subway! We were still hard pressed to find some filling halal options so we settled for the veggie sub to play it safe. We were amazed that mineral water costs about AED 10 there whereas in the UAE it costs about AED 1 but we realized it’s because the tap water in NZ is safe to drink.
Registration for the conference was in the afternoon (conference freebies Yayyy!) after which we decided to walk around Queen’s which is also right around the corner from the hotel. We walked…and we walked… and we walked some more, exploring every alley that Queen’s had to offer, stopping in stores to thaw. We shopped for a few trinkets here and there, always choosing to put one item of interest on hold in case the souvenir shops were charging a premium due to their convenient location. There are all sorts of shops on Queen’s making it a great place for the shopping-inclined, but since we weren’t looking for anything in particular we just enjoyed the great weather, the atmosphere and the wonderful hospitality of all the shopkeepers before heading back to the hotel where I had to attend the Welcome Reception.
Now being slightly on the introverted side (read very), I wasn’t too keen on going, but seeing as how this was the whole purpose of the trip, I couldn’t help but go. I went down to the Ballroom with the full intention of returning as soon as possible (being sociable is tough stuff), but ended up spending the entire 2 hours there chatting with Dr John Hung and his lovely wife who kept me company with stories of their family. Leaving the ballroom, I resolved that I should at least work up enough courage to talk to someone myself and so I met Indi from Sri Lanka, an audio-visual signal processing track second year PhD student from Australia (that’s quite a mouthful). We chatted for a bit and promised to meet up the next day (Day 1 of the conference) ^^ The day ended on a happy note with garlic bread and bread and dips for dinner and a rush to iron my clothes…