The National Holiday in China brought big changes for Jun and me. Earlier this year we got engaged while in Indonesia, and over the summer we decided that we would get married in New Zealand over the holiday in October. We were both excited for it, but first we had to overcome a lot of hurdles with work and the government.
While I didn’t have any issue in traveling to New Zealand, Jun had to submit a number of documents to receive his visa. A significant part of it was to prove that we were indeed a couple and that we were legitimately engaged. On my end I had to contend with permission from work to be on leave for some additional days. After working with everyone, we were finally given all the required paperwork and permission to go to New Zealand!
Since we had to go through that process, we had to buy our tickets to New Zealand rather late. The flights from Guangzhou by then were expensive, so we decided to fly out of Hong Kong. On the day that we were traveling to Auckland, we first had to take the ferry to Hong Kong. The ferry was a convenient way to get to the airport. It leaves from Guangzhou and heads straight to the airport, and once there we could check-in at the ferry port. When we got to the counter they already had our tickets and all we had to do was show our ID and head through security. As an added bonus we were also able to get a partial refund on our ferry tickets, so we had some spending money at the airport without needing to exchange RMB for HKD.
The flight itself to Auckland was uneventful. Since it was an overnight flight we just relaxed on the plane and tried to get some sleep. When we finally got to Auckland we were excited to begin our trip there. The first thing I noticed was how uncrowded things were. From the moment we exited the plane and did immigration and collected our bags, there wasn’t long lines or pushing crowds. It was a nice change. We decided to take the airport shuttle bus to our hotel since it stopped directly in front of it. The person behind the counter was really nice and we chatted about the weather and how I was enjoying the colder weather since it was still hot in Guangzhou. But Jun was unhappy with it—the ticket agent also agreed with him.
On the ride to the hotel we traveled through the suburbs of Auckland, and it reminded me of home. After living in Guangzhou with the skyscrapers and apartment blocks, it was nice to see single house dwellings. We also got to experience a bit of the suburbs when the bus we were on had technical difficulties. One of the alarms on the bus went off and the driver didn’t know what had caused it. He thus stopped and we waited for the next bus to pick us up. The driver was nice and apologized. The rest of us understood and waited. I took the opportunity to explore a little. There were a couple of stores there and it was nice to see what was in there. Jun was fascinated by the mail boxes and how the post would be delivered to these mailboxes. Sometimes I forget that things I take for granted are novel for him.
Finally the bus arrived and we were able to get to the hotel. Since we had arrived early in the morning we had to wait a bit for our room. We decided to go explore the downtown area and maybe find something to eat. We walked around the central area and saw some restaurants but nothing incited any interest. We decided to head to the waterfront and explore that area. We ended up at Queens Wharf and enjoyed looking at the harbor and just relaxing. It was also at that time that the time difference and lack of sleep started to hit us. We decided to head back to the hotel and get something to eat.
We had a difficult time deciding where to eat and ended up at McDonald’s, which ended up not being so bad since they had a beef pie that was actually quite nice. After eating we headed back to the hotel. We cleaned up and took a nap. By the time we woke up it was already early evening. We looked on Trip Advisor for areas where there were food and found that there was a little community—Uptown—near our hotel. The area had a number of restaurants; we ended up at an Italian restaurant called Gina’s. It was a wonderful dinner. The portions were nice and the food was amazing. It had a homey feel to it. There was a birthday party near us. And the people at the restaurant turned off the main lights and brought out a cake to the table and everyone in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday. It was sweet gesture. After dinner we paid, where I had to readjust to using my debit card since cash is infrequently used in Auckland, and we headed back to the hotel to rest for the night.
After a good night’s rest, Jun and I were excited that we could officially begin the process of registering for our marriage. We walked to the marriage registry office in Auckland in the CBD. When we got there we decided to have a quick breakfast at a café. When we got up to the office we were given a number to wait. After a few minutes we went up to the counter and the clerk helped us go through the process. The first thing she did was to check if there was any available times for a wedding that week. Fortunately there was one left that Friday, and she immediately booked it for us. We then went through the particulars of our information and she informed us of what we needed to bring. We had prepared for everything except for one thing—we needed witnesses present. Neither one of us knew anyone in Auckland, so we had to think about this quandary. Jun’s cousin had come to Auckland for the wedding, so we had one witness, but we needed to find another one. Jun had the idea of perhaps posting something on CouchSurfing.com to see if anyone was willing. So we found a place with Wi-Fi and he posted an ad.
Since we would have to wait for a response, we decided that we would go around Auckland and enjoy the day. We went back to the waterfront, but decided to wander around the Viaduct Basin and Silo Park. It was a gorgeous day and, while cool, the sun warmed us. It was a beautiful spring day in that regard. We were in such a good mood that we went and got some ice cream. The walk around this area was relaxing and there was a good number of things to see. There was even a make-shift library made out of shipping containers.
Afterwards we walked to the Parnell neighborhood. This area had a number of local shops and galleries and was a nice afternoon stop. From there we went to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. While there is indeed a war memorial, the museum also houses an in-depth introduction to New Zealand. The first floor had a lot of exhibits on Maori and modern New Zealand cultures. The other floors had a number of exhibits from classical Asian artifacts to exhibits concerning the wars that New Zealanders had fought in over the centuries. At the top of the museum was the memorial. It was a nice experience, especially since when we got there it started raining. Afterwards we went and explored the park around the museum, which was vast and in some places were more forest than park.
By then it was evening and we had dinner on the waterfront, where we tried for the first time green-lipped mussels. Those mussels were huge and in the right sauce delicious. This night was the first time we had them, but they wouldn’t be the last. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for the night.
The next morning we went straight to the ferry terminal. We decided to go to Davenport across the bay to explore that side of Auckland. The ferry ride was quick and we got some nice views of the CBD and of Davenport.
Once we got there we walked up the main street up towards Mt. Victoria. The view from the top of the mountain was quite amazing. Around the top were wildflowers and tall grass that made for a whimsical experience. It used to be a military installation, and now it’s used for weather observation in part. You can see some of the old military installations and walk around them. It was a nice way to start our explorations of Davenport.
Afterwards we went back to the main street for lunch. We went to a restaurant call Manuka that served a variety of dishes. It was amazing! I had a wonderful seafood bisque with green-lipped mussels. I still think about it in joy!
After lunch we walked by the coast towards North Head Historic Reserve, another former military installation. The walk itself was nice. Some of the houses were quite unique: there were historic and contemporary homes intermingled with each other. It was nice to see such diversity. When we finally got to the reserve, we started to explore the different areas. Since it used to be a military gun barrack, there are a number of tunnels to explore. They crisscross each other and it’s easy to get lost in the dark in them. It was really fun to go around these tunnels.
On the northern side of the reserve we saw that there was a beach adjoining it. We decided to go down to the beach and enjoy the water and sand for a bit. After relaxing and enjoying the calm of the water, we went back towards the pier to go back to the CBD.
We decided to go and rest a bit before heading back out for dinner. But on a whim we decided to go up to Mount Eden. It’s a dormant volcano and you can walk around the crater and see some spectacular views of the city. It’s a fairly steep incline up to the top, but it was well worth the trek. After such an arduous journey to see Mount Eden, we were definitely ready for dinner. We went to another seafood restaurant—Ika Seafood Bar and Frill—that was quiet and had wonderful food.
Later that night Jun received a response to his message. The potential witness identified himself as a South African who had become a New Zealand citizen, and he was willing to be our witness. He wanted to meet us first, so we set up a time to meet up the next evening.
While planning for this trip, I had run across Waiheke Island. It’s an island known for its wine and chill atmosphere. It was one of the places I wanted to visit, and we decided today would be the day. We went to Queens Wharf to catch the ferry to the island. It was a cool morning, but the air was crisp and the sea calm. It was a quite beautiful ride.
When we got to the island, we decided to head east first and then travel back to the ferry terminal. So we took the bus to Onetangi Beach. It was a long beach, and it was quiet and peaceful. Just walking along the beach with the sun warming us was welcomed. As we got to the further end of the beach we turned and went up a hill to reach one of the vineyards on the island. We ended up at Miro Vineyards, which was a wonderful find. The surrounding area was reminiscent of southern Europe, which also inspired the theme of the restaurant at the vineyard: Casita Miro. The food there was delicious, the wine wonderful, and the staff friendly. We stayed there for a while and just enjoyed a leisurely and relaxing lunch.
Later that afternoon we went to the main area on the island—Oneroa—to explore the shops and the beach there. It had cute little shops that were fun to explore. We also got some ice cream there to treat ourselves. Later we decided to head back to Auckland. It was near sunset and we saw a lot of sailing boats on the way back. That was cool to see them sail across the bay and around the ferry. It was also quite windy, and at one point my glasses flew away and I feared that I may have lost them. Fortunately it only flew down to the deck below and I was able to retrieve them.
When we got back to Auckland we decided to have dinner before we met the potential witness. After dinner we met him and his partner. They took us to a Taiwanese dessert shop and we got to know each other. They were really nice and friendly. They offered us some suggestions of where we could go to see other parts of Auckland. After getting to know each other, we decided to meet up for dinner the next day.
Based on the recommendations of our new friends, we went to the Mission Bay neighborhood. It’s a quaint place with a beach and some restaurants. We ended up going to a Belgian place called De Fontein. They had some nice lunch specials, although we went overboard and ordered more food than we could handle. It was, however, nice. After lunch we walked around the beach and decided to walk a bit further into one of the larger parks. At that moment it started to rain, so we ended up staying at a Starbucks until the rain stopped.
When it did we went up to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial, a memorial to commemorate a former prime minster of New Zealand. The gardens around the memorial were nice. Afterwards we went back towards the water and walked around the edge. At that point it looked like it might rain again so we took a bus back to the CBD.
Back in the downtown area we decided to go to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki to see various style of New Zealand art. It was a nice museum with some interesting exhibits. They had a number of contemporary exhibits that was quite interesting. I particularly liked Judy Darragh’s “Limbo” that hung in the main atrium.
By that time it was time to meet up with our new friends for dinner. They took us to this budget Thai place. The food was quite nice. The owner is actually a friend of theirs. Afterwards we went to another desert place and talked about the next day. Jun and I were excited and couldn’t wait for it to be finally Friday.
They dropped us back at the hotel and Jun and I prepared for the next day. After making sure everything was ready we went to bed.
The day finally arrived! After waking up Jun and I got ready to go to the registry for the wedding ceremony. We were excited as we walked there. When we got there we waited for a bit and made sure both our witnesses came. Finally our wedding officiant came out and had us go over the particulars. She went back to her office to confirm all the information. Once she was ready we went to a room at the back of the registry. She explained what we needed to do and had us stand at the front. It was a fairly quick ceremony. Jun and I were nervous so we rushed things a bit. Our witnesses said that even when we exchanged rings we were quick and they didn’t have much time to take pictures. When we were done saying our vows we signed the paperwork and took some pictures as the officiant went and printed our marriage certificate. When she came back with it Jun and I were officially married!
It was wonderful morning and we had the rest of the day to celebrate. We decided to go to the Sky Tower next door first. It had some nice views of the city, and Jun and I could just bask in the joy that we felt. Afterwards we had lunch and decided to go to the zoo.
The zoo was an odd choice on our last day, but it was a really nice zoo. The different sections of the zoo had a theme related to it, so there was an African section that resembled different communities in Africa. There were sections reminiscent to New Zealand and to other parts of the world. We were able to see penguins, kiwis, and a Tasmanian devil. It was quite a nice zoo. Sadly, our time was running short and we had to go back to the CBD to get ready for our flight back to China.
At the CBD we had dinner and went back to the hotel to get our belongings. Our witness and his partner offered to take us to the airport, and we were there in no time. Air New Zealand has pretty much automated their check-in process. So we received our boarding passed and checked in our bags quickly and efficiently. Immigration was also automated for me. I just scanned in my passport and had my facial features recognized and I was able to clear immigration quickly. We waited for a bit and then boarded our plane.
Jun and I were sad to leave New Zealand, but as we went back to China we went back as a married couple!