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Exeter

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Exeter. Exeter is located south west of England. It was a 3 hours drive from where we live.

The hotel that we stayed in was excellent! It was very reasonably priced, walking distance to the the University of Exeter, and also the city.

It’s basically a huge house with many rooms, converted into a hotel.

The room we were given was like a secret room, lovely.

The cute stairway to our room.

Quite a spacious bathroom provided with many towels.

Breakfast is provided, and served by the owners I presume. Freshly made to order. If you’ve never tried fried bread (a british thing maybe), order the vegetarian breakfast. Somehow I didn’t take any picture of my breakfast, too hungry I suppose.

The dining room where breakfast is served, looks out to a lovely garden.

So, if you’re visiting Exeter, and need to stay for a night or 2, I highly recommend Raffles Hotel 😉

On the first day we arrived, Mat and I had a little day light time left to just quickly walk around the city. And you know what, it’s tiny. You can finish walking the whole city in half a day, or even less. The next day, I had the whole day to myself, (because Mat had a meeting at the uni), so I had a more detailed exploration of the city.

First stop, St Catherine’s Almshouses, what’s left of it. It was bombed in 1942. It used to be a Roman Fortress, an Inn and then Almshouses intended to accommodate 13 poor men of good character and preferably with connections to the Cathedral.

Next to the Almshouses is the remaining of the roman wall.

Tea time of scones and chocolate mousse cake with tea.

If I have to name an attraction that is a must visit in Exeter, it would be the Underground Passages.

Before you go there, look for discount coupons in the “Tour Exeter” booklets. You will get a 10% discount. There were many tour booklets in my hotel drawer, so I just teared one out. It costs £6 per person.

As you walk down the stairs, you’ll be greeted with a rather spooky character.

Then walk through this strange corridor.

And then, when it’s time, sit through a 10 minute introductory video. After the video, you must put on a hard hat, and off you go underground.

Very narrow!

And some parts, very low. So if you’re tall, bend over. I’m short, and I still have to bend down a little.

The underground passages are medieval subterranean passageways that used to transport water under Exeter city centre. You’ll hear the full story if you visit it.

Compared to the the catacombs in France, this was not spooky at all! It’s claustrophobic, but I’m ok with it.

There are “emergency” exits, and one of them leads you to Boots.

Walking around the city. Modern architecture. Lots of shopping.

Next stop, St Martin’s Cathedral.

It’s a medieval church, built maybe around year 1065. It’s one of the oldest churches in Exeter, established even before the Great Cathedral opposite this church building.

What’s unique about it is that if you notice the wall at the front, it’s at an angle.

St Martin’s Cathedral is right at the corner before these row of shops.

And opposite St Martin’s, is the Great Cathedral of Exeter!

Very grand interior, as grand as Westminster I would say, but not as many dead bodies… lols

Front:

Back:

Side:

While I was enjoying a free concert by some choir, I noticed a particular cushion which had the word “GARLIC” embroidered on it. No idea why.

Huge pipes of the church organ producing very bass sounds.

Picture taken behind the church organ.

This is Exeter Astronomical Clock, dates from 1484. I could tell the time, but I couldn’t figure out the dates.

If you notice, the door below the clock, has a hole in the bottom of the door. It was cut to provide access for the Bishop’s cat to deter rats and mice.

The stone Pulpitum screen:

The Martyrs’ Pulpit:

Another photo of the front, with clearer skies.

Streets around exeter.

This is what is left of the Exeter Castle.

At this point, I am making my way to the Quay. These pictures are some sites that I walked past.

The Quay.



Walking back to the city again.


Overall, a lovely little city. Unfortunately I didn’t really have the opportunity to try Exeter’s food. Maybe next time? If there’s a next time 🙂

It’s funny when we showed the picture of our snow covered car to our friends, the first question they ask is “Will the car start?”. The simple answer is Yes. First ignition. Don’t have to try and try again. This is a very modern world we’re living in. Fuels are protected with anti freeze solution 😉

This morning, yes, the car started, but we had a little trouble trying to get out from the parking spot. The tyres couldn’t grip onto the snow covered road properly. I think God knew what was going to happen, and along came a local man. He saw us in trouble, and he quickly ran behind the car and started pushing. I couldn’t have done it. Mat was at the wheel. The man didn’t give up. He just kept helping to push and push the car till it got properly on the road for us to drive off. Kind man. Did I tell you Icelandic people are such nice people?

Even though the snow stopped since yesterday, and snow ploughing trucks went over and over the roads, it was still a challenge to drive. Powdery snow kept being blown over the road. So some parts of the road were still slippery. It was still very challenging for Mat to drive. More over, the car that we rented wasn’t a 4wd.


This is the car we rented. A hyundai.

First stop of the day, Djúpalónssandur. It’s suppose to be a beautiful pebbled beach. But as you can see, it’s not at the moment.

If we hiked a few kilometers, maybe 2km, we will reach a pebbled beach, where four famous stones used by fishermen to test their strength. They are Fullsterkur (“full strength”) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (“half strength”) at 100 kg, hálfdrættingur (“weakling”) at 54 kg and Amlóði (“Useless”) 23 kg. They were traditionally used to qualify men for work on fishing boats, with the Hálfdrættingur being the minimum weight a man would have to lift onto a ledge at hip-height to qualify. The bay is now unused.

Unfortunately, because of the snow, we will just appreciate the information on the board.

Lovely views from our drive along the west coast.

Next stop, Arnarstapi, a small fishing village at the foot of Mt. Stapafell.

The beach holds a particular attraction called Gatklettur, and three rifts, Hundagjá, Miðgjá and Músagjá. It’s very much like the London Bridge at Great Ocean Road. As for the rocks, very much like the rocks on Jeju Island. I guess, lava stones have their similarities.

Views around Arnarstapi.



You can’t really tell, but these 2 next pictures are taken from the mountain top.

We didn’t get to do much, or should I say, get down of the car much. One: there’s snow everywhere. Even though we were wearing proper hiking shoes, it would be safer if we wore crampons, those “spikes” that keeps your feet planted on the ground. Two: The wind is really strong. You can’t tell from the pictures, but, I-kid-you-not. Three: With the wind blowing, your face is constantly hit by icy waters. Not fun. So I think I’ll enjoy the view from inside the car.

We made it back safely to our hotel for a rest.

Tonight, we have a reservation with the Blue Lagoon!

Tip: If you have only limited days to spend in Iceland, you’ll only have to visit these three places: Reykjavik city, The Golden Circle, and The Blue Lagoon.

A time slot reservation is required when visiting Blue Lagoon. Book early to avoid disappointment.

If I were to visit Blue Lagoon again, I would have booked the day time slot, in order to see the blueness of the lagoon. At night, you can’t see a single hint of blue.

But, if your aim is to HOPEFULLY catch a glimpse of the northern lights/Aurora, then, book the night slot. (FYI: Auroras do not appear every night and everywhere).

And you know what, of all the three nights that we stayed in Iceland, and of all the time slots that Mat could have got us in Blue Lagoon, how perfect timing could it be. God must have known the desires our hearts, because, it was only at THIS destination, THIS time 7-8pm, we saw the aurora with our very own eyes.

I’m sorry for the quality of the photo because all we had was an iPhone camera. It’s much better enjoyed in person.

What a perfect end to our trip in Iceland.

A few tips about Blue Lagoon:

  1. Bring your own towel, even if it’s the hotel’s towel. Don’t waste your money renting the one at Blue Lagoon. Don’t even need to bring your toiletries. Shampoo, conditioner and body shampoo are all provided. USE IT. It’s spa quality!
  2. It’s not that bad walking in the cold(if you come in winter). Only takes 2 seconds, and you’ll be in the warm waters.
  3. Remember to put on the mud mask. Put it on till it dries up, then wash them off in the water you’re soaking in (yes, along with other people’s dead skin). lols!
  4. If waiting for the aurora to appear, find a good spot to sit, sit back, relax, and enjoy.
  5. Best way to end the night after a good soak in the blue lagoon? Go back to your hotel and make yourself a nice cup of Shin Ramyun Noodles (that you packed with you before flying to Iceland). Bliss.

Today, we were supposed to visit the south of Iceland, where the glaciers and more national parks are. But at 3.30am this morning, we saw this:

It was snowing pretty heavily. We started having a pretty “bad” feeling that we should not think about driving today.

And Lo and Behold, this morning at 6am, when we woke up for real. The street was blanketed with car pillows.

So beautifully covered right? When everything is freshly covered by snow, and untouched by every person in town, it is the most beautiful scene you will ever see.

We had to walk to the hotel’s headquarter’s for breakfast. So, we got to walk through all this snow.

This is the hotel “headquarter” that we stayed at. It’s okay. Don’t expect luxury. The one we booked was a studio apartment, comes with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom toilet. It’s a few meters away from the “headquarter”.

And THIS is our car.

As you can see, there’s a tonne of snow on our car and AROUND it, and snow everywhere. So we changed our travel plans to just walk around the city.

First stop, Hallgrímskirkja Church, a Lutheran parish church. It’s the largest church building in Iceland, and among the tallest buildings in Iceland.

Inside the church.

The church organ pipes.

Saw a rainbow on the ground.

Reflected from the glass windows of this building.

This was how deep the snow got. Up to my knees.

Only 4WDs and snow plough trucks were on the road.

And the “aftermath” of snow? Sludge everywhere. It’s pretty messy. Slippery too. So be very careful when walking on melted snow, because it might be ice.

Beautiful scenery at Lake Tjörnin. It’s a little frozen. Definitely not hard enough to ice skate.

Caught a swan flying near the surface.

The food in Iceland is nothing to shout about. BUT… I highly recommend Cafe Loki to try Icelandic’s traditional food.

Their rye bread is really really good. Moist. Sweet. Almost like cake texture.
See the flags on some cube looking thing? It’s fermented shark meat. They warned us to eat it last, because the smell and taste can be too overpowering and it might spoil your appetite. But we ate it in the middle of our meal anyway. It didn’t taste as bad as we thought.

I ordered the lamb soup. According to reviews, many raved about this soup. So I had high expectations when I tasted it.
I think if I cooked it for them, it would have tasted even better. The soup was quite bland in my opinion. But then again, maybe I have a strong tasting tongue.

For dessert, we ordered a rye bread ice cream to share. It’s basically just rye bread crumbs mixed with vanilla ice cream.

I know my review of the food sounds ~bluerh… but I still highly recommend it just to have an experience of Icelandic food.

What I really really really highly recommend is trying Icelandic yogurt. Skyr (pronounced ‘skee-er’).
This yogurt is smooth as a baby’s bottom. I-kid-you-not. The smoothest and creamiest yogurt I have ever tried. You must must must try this. High in protein. Low in fat. Considered a Viking’s Superfood. You can find it in any supermarket.

After a good walk around the city, it felt pretty tiring actually. Because, your concentration is all on trying not to slip and fall.

Went back to the hotel for a rest. And then I thought we better dig out our car for tomorrow’s trip.

I think it was all God’s perfect timing. The time we went out to dig the car out, a local lady was digging her car out, that was parked behind ours, too. So, I asked nicely, whether I could borrow her shovel. She kindly did. If we didn’t have that shovel, we only had our 2 hands, and it would have taken even longer. It took us almost 2 hours maybe? to dig/uncover the car.

I asked the lady if it was normal for Reykjavik to get this much snow? She said it is NOT normal. It almost never snows in the city. The last time it snowed like this was 1952! What?! So there… told you it’s historical.

A friend of ours visited Iceland in December, not a snow was in sight. Another friend visited 2 weeks before us, said there was not a snow in sight too. And us meeting this much snow on this weekend? How much more unique can our visit to unique Iceland get?

After all that workout, it’s time to eat. Long story short, the cafe that we were suppose to have fish and chips turned out to be closing. So, we randomly picked another fish and chip shop along the road, and picked this one.

Interesting fish skin lamps.

When you’re hungry, everything tastes good.

Today, we visited the most famous sites in Iceland, and they are all in what they call the Golden Circle Tour.

Driving out of Reykjavik was a surreal experience. It feels almost like you’re driving on Mars. The landscape is barren, but yet, there’s an eerie beauty-ness about it.

Our first stop of the Golden Circle Tour is Þingvellir (also called Thingvellir) National Park. This is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate meet.

A view of Lake Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

I have seen and experience snow fall many times especially when I was living in South Korea, but what we were about to experience was definitely a first. As we were walking down this cracked cliff, the weather changed without any warning. A snow storm? blizzard? was passing through. It was crazy. After a few seconds, we thought it will be extremely ridiculous to be walking in this weather, so we quickly walked back to the Information Centre to dry out and wait for the blizzard to pass.

As soon as it came, 10 minutes later, it was gone. The sun shining, not a wind in sight.


Apparently, there’s a lava tube somewhere in Þingvellir National Park. I’m not sure where it is. But it’s ok, we’ve seen many lava tubes in Jeju Island, South Korea.

So, our next stop, is Geysir, or The Great Geysir.

The word “geyser” comes from the Old Norse geysa, “to gush”, has been adopted into English.



Boiling hot water is shot up into the air as high as 70m. This happens approximately every 10 minutes. So if you want to get a shot, or a video, you’ll just have to be very patient, and keep your finger on the record/snap button. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for another 10 minutes or so.



After missing 2 geysers and successfully snapping one, off we went to out next destination, Gullfoss – Golden Waterfall.

This mighty waterfall cascades 32m into the river gorge. It’s like the niagara falls of Iceland. Awesome sight.

This next waterfall is called The Faxi (or Vatnsleysufoss) waterfall. It’s a smaller version, and less visited by the crowd.

It’s interesting that they specially built a staircase for salmon? or trout? to jump up the river.

And then that’s the end of our Golden Circle tour. And good timing too. Because if we left a little later, we would have bumped into more trouble driving back to Reykjavik.

The snow storm came again. It took incredible concentration for Mat to drive, and I too had to keep my eyes on the left side railing to make sure Mat kept the car on the road. Visibility was almost zero.

Really praise God we made it back safely to our hotel.

Stay tuned for the next post, because the snow is about to get historical.

Iceland – Day 1

Iceland is considered one of those unique countries on a traveller’s list. But the weekend that we went, it could not have been more unique.

Mat has been to Iceland, maybe 3 years ago? And he went during summer, and even bumped into summer solstice, where the sun never sets. I couldn’t follow him that time because he was on a week’s course staying at the Uni’s hostel. After his trip there, he had a goal of taking me there for a holiday with him, and also, the ultimate goal of seeing the aurora!

Mind you, flights to Iceland is not cheap. So at last when we found a reasonably priced flight, it was in the peak of winter. hoo-ray-

(If I would give you one important tip, it will be, “Don’t visit Iceland in Winter!”)

So, we booked ourselves on the Icelandic Air. Flight was fairly smooth until we approached the land. Visibility was crazy, strong winds, etc… Praise God indeed we landed safely. We soon found out that half of Iceland was closed because of the weather.

It is recommended to rent a car when visiting Iceland, unless you are travelling single. There are plenty of tours, but it will cost you a bomb. Since Mat has been to Iceland, he was very confident he could take me around in a car 🙂

Most shops in the capital city, Reykjavik (pronounced REYK-ya-veek), closes early. So since we arrived late evening, we had to hunt down dinner quickly. This is Iceland’s most popular hotdog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (translation: The best hot dog in town)

If you want to eat it as a meal, one hotdog is definitely not enough.

So is it the best hotdog in town? Yeah… the sauce, the hotdog, the bun, is nothing unique, honestly speaking, but what’s under the hotdog. They put fried onions, so it gives that additional sensation of texture. Without it, this will not be the best hotdog in town. Warning: The line is always long, made popular by Bill Clinton.

So, since one hotdog wasn’t enough for me, and I didn’t want to queue up again, so off we went to look for a supermarket. There was only 1 supermarket left open in the whole of Reykjavik at 7pm. Bought ourselves some fruit, and breakfast, and also lunch for the next day.

Tip no 2: Food in Reykjavik is really really really expensive. So to save yourself some money, get some sandwiches from the supermarket, especially for the following day’s lunch. The cheapest supermarket is Bónus.

After that, we walked back to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

Here is a sneak peak at one of the city sight’s.

Our ticket package comes with an additional free entry to one of the 2 water parks of disney world, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. We chose Typhoon Lagoon.

It’s not linked to the monorail too. But not to fear, free bus.

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After slathering up with sun screen and changed into our swim suits, we went walking around the park. Not very big.

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This is the wave pool, but I don’t think the waves are big enough for surfing. Didn’t really see the fun to this. Everyone was just sitting in the water facing the direction of the incoming wave. The floor was rough too. I think many people had a few scratches here and there.

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We took a lazy ride on the Castaway Creek. Just grab a tube, sink in it, and let the water flow you effortlessly around the whole park.

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Good thing we got on it first thing in the morning, because by the afternoon, almost every inch of this Castaway Creek was filled with people.

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There’s one cool feature about Typhoon Lagoon. You can snorkel with sharks and sting rays. Not the great white. But mini harmless ones. It was so fun, that we went twice.

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There are also a few rides, the Crush n Gusher, which we could both sit together. We went down on this twice, because there were 2 different tubes to go through.

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As you come down this ride, there’s a photographer ever ready to take your photo.

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Obviously I didn’t purchase these photos (as you can see from the watermarks on the photo). Because one photo is so expensive, something like USD15 per photo.

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We managed to sit on every ride, except for one, because it was too extreme.

Overall, a fun and sweet day.

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Tonight, we went to another Disney Resort for dinner. We either take the bus or the boat. We shall take the boat.

This is the jetty behind our hotel, to catch the boat to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

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View of our hotel from the jetty.

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Another view of another part of the hotel. If I’m not mistaken, this building is for Disney club members.

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Here comes the boat. Free!

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Selfie on the boat.

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Welcome to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

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So much more character to the hotel.

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We ate at one of the restaurants in this hotel. Very interesting experience. When there was a table ready for us, the waiter said something like this “I’m afraid it’s a loooonnngggg walk to your table. I hope you’ll all be alright with it”.

And I kid you not, our table was literally 5 steps away. I said to the waiter “WOW… that was a LOONNNGGG walk!”. And he replied, “I know right?”.

Your first impression will be that the waiters are incredibly rude. But actually, it is all in great fun. Just play along with them. If you need ketchup, you just have to shout for it, and then you’ll be given like 20 bottles of ketchup. One lady ordered a large cup of soda, and the waitress made her a really tall tower of straws. You have to be there to experience it. Great fun.

I ordered a vegetarian dish, Red Quinoa cakes with salad. Nice, but very filling. I think the quinoa was expanding in my tummy as I ate.

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If you even come to Disney World for a holiday, I highly recommend staying in this hotel, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. So much more character. The only disadvantage is that there are no monorails connected to it. It’s the bus or the boat, which can be quite slow. The other hotel I would recommend is the Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Both these hotels are family friendly.

IF you are a couple, and would like a more “princess-y/romantic” setting, then I would recommend Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. When we went there, Mat’s friend said, “whoa, so white”. There’s a mini chapel there too if you are thinking of getting married, equipped with a horse carriage and etc…

There are many many other Disney resorts. But those are the ones that I came across.

So, here ends my blog about Disney World. The very next day, we had to fly home ㅠ ㅠ.

We transited Newark Airport again, because my husband wanted to avoid JFK. Had lunch here at one of those “high tech” cafes. You order your meal through the ipad thingy, and also pay through it using a credit card.

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While eating, you can also play games and win prizes. I kept playing with the free coins, and won 2 mini chocolates. Not bad eh?

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You can just see New York in the horizon.

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The air hostesses on our flight back weren’t as good as the one we flew to Newark. For some reason, they were not as attentive. But anyway, Praise God it was a good flight.

And Praise God once again for the amazing opportunity and provision for this trip to Disney World!

Welcome to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
There are no monorails to Animal Kingdom. But there’s the free disney bus.

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Couldn’t help notice a very interesting rock sculpture.

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After passing through the entrance, you’ll be amazed with the fake tree right in the middle of Animal Kingdom.

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A closer view of the tree. There’s a 4D show right under the tree, not to be missed.

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If you arrive there just before the opening time, maybe 8.55am, watch out for these beautiful parrots. They fly over you, and then fly off over you again to officiate the opening time. Very magical.

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Our first ride brings us to Dinoland.

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I forgot to take a photo of this ride. It’s sort of like a roller coaster. We are joined by another colleague of Mat’s. We could sit together in one pod. It’s a roller coaster that whirls and twirls, with 2 drops. Not intense.

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Another big dino.

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Remember that tree, now we’re about to go under it. The Tree of Life Theatre presenting It’s Tough To Be A Bug!

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It’s a 4D theatre. Very nice. There was one part where giant spiders came down from the roof, and Mat told me he kept his eyes closed.

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The next ride we took was the Kali River Rapids. I was excited about this ride. But after the ride, I was a little dissappointed. It could have been a little wilder, and also wetter. All I had was a few sprinkles of water on me. Our friend who went to Universal Studios the next day said there’s a similar ride, but much much better, wilder and wetter than this.

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Expedition Everest. The wildest ride of all of Disney World’s theme parks.

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I was pretty anxious getting on this ride.

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But hey, I can’t disappointment my ride mates.

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And this was how I looked like on the ride.

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And you know what, it wasn’t that bad. It was pretty good actually.
Another view of Expedition Everest from a distance.

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Next, be sure to get a fast pass for this, Kilamanjaro Safaris. Because the earlier, the more awake the animals are.

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Even though we had a fast pass, the line was pretty long.

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So of course we had to take the opportunity to take more selfies.

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Almost there.

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Almost.

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And finally we’re on it.

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Even though we took the first fast pass time of the day, the animals were already starting to laze around because it was already very warm.

Nice to see hippos.

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A very tall ant hill.

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There’s got to be a giraffe.

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Flamingoes.

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Zebras.

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Our driver for the Kilimanjaro Safari was her first time ever driving and giving out information. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t excellent. But since it was her first time, we’ll give her an applause.

Also, don’t miss Flights of Wonder, a bird show.

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I found it very entertaining. Saw a bird that could sing 3 songs by heart. Amazing.

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And also, the highlight of Animal Kingdom is the Festival Of The Lion King show.

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It’s been a while since I last watched a live musical. Very nicely done.

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Finding Nemo The Musical was alright.

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Since they are all fish, so the fish had to be carried by the actors. Not bad.

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And finally, a walk through the Gorilla Falls.

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I’m not sure if you can see anything, but there’s actually a hippo there, having a spa. The fish that is around it is giving the hippo a good clean.

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A sleepy gorilla.

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And another gorilla.

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After going to 3 parks in Disney World, if you have to choose only 2 parks to go, I would recommend Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom.