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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

My experience in Cairns led me to move up my flight and head to Auckland a week earlier than planned. Not that I couldn’t have had a great time had I stayed in Cairns, but I’m quite pleased with my decision.
Auckland was my first time Couchsurfing on this trip and it reaffirmed my belief that it is THE way to travel. My host was Leslie, a PhD candidate from British Columbia. She is cool, smart, nice, and a lot of fun. One of her two flatmates, Tash, is also a Couchsurfing host and acted as a co-host since Leslie has a very active social life (in addition to conducting transgenic disease fighting research on fish, Leslie also finds time to belly dance and learn jiujitsu while being an active gamer). These lovely ladies were incredible and made me feel totally at home and very welcome.
I spent my time in Auckland as I would anywhere else: looking for food, eating, hanging out with interesting people, and checking out nature. There are quite a few Korean and Japanese restaurants in the city, but I opted for Middle Eastern and Malaysian since I don’t have those options at home. Hands down, the best thing I ate in Auckland, or anywhere so far on this trip, was lamb on kabsa rice from Holy Land on K Road. It was phenomenal. It was so good that I went back again the next day and tried the lamb kofta kebabs with tomato and bread. It wasn’t bad on any level, but didn’t approach the awesomeness of the lamb on kabsa rice.
I attended two farmers’ markets, the Saturday Britomart and Sunday La Cigale. The Saturday market is in the heart of the city and heavily advertised, yet was a lot smaller than I anticipated. It reminded me of farmers’ markets back home with far more vendors selling prepared food than farmers selling things they grow. I was quite satisfied with a delicious local, organic sausage sandwich, 14 mini Dutch donuts, and an organic coffee. The Sunday market was located at a French specialty food store and had a better feel and atmosphere to it as well as more produce for sale. The sausage guy was there too and I got another sandwich from him in addition to a really good seafood paella that had mussels, prawns, squid, baby octopus, and fish. One cool thing I noticed about these farmers’ markets is that they allow dogs.
Leslie joined me for the Sunday market and we went to a fancy chocolate place after and indulged in serious chocolate drinks and some truffles. We also had dinner at Mamak, a Malaysian place that had great reviews and excellent service, but less-than-spectacular food. The extra, extra spicy chicken curry (the only menu item with 3 chilies next to it) wasn’t even remotely spicy. Leslie also took me to Elliot Stables, a really nice high-end food court.
My hostesses lived across the street from the oldest park in Auckland, the Domain. I had a couple pleasant strolls through the very green and peaceful public space while I was in town. There are a lot of fun touristy things to do in Auckland, but I elected to just chill out and enjoy a few days with some great locals. New Zealand was off to a great start!

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