Anyway, enough moaning about the weather. Bangkok is a fun city to explore, though I'm not convinced that our usual go-to method ("wander around on foot and discover things until you're dog-tired, then eat a lot") quite worked here, because it's not a city that's geared towards pedestrians - we saw some people walking, but pavements exist only sporadically and the traffic is, if not quite on the frenzied level Simon witnessed in Delhi, still pretty bananas compared to what we're used to in the UK. People are much more likely to take tuk-tuks or taxis, though (as we discovered) you have to be pretty damn careful to ensure that your driver is charging you the right amount. 1000 Thai Baht for an hour's drive that should have been about 60฿? I don't think so! Still, Simon got to meet an old friend of his with whom he went to Rajasthan, we had some great food, and we saw around the incredible Buddhist temple of Wat Pho with its Reclining Buddha (at 46 metres long, one of the biggest in the country), so as very brief jaunts to major cities where you couldn't possibly do everything in one day go ... this was pretty good.
The "Auckland War Museum" (a slightly odd name in my opinion, because it's much more than just a war museum) is also terrific. It's kind of a cross between the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and the British Museum, with bits of the Science Museum thrown in. Seriously, this one has it all - the history of Maori culture, from canoes to cabins; exhibits on the dormant volcanoes upon which Auckland is built; tons of space devoted to NZ wildlife; and a moving set of exhibits about New Zealand's role in 20th century wars (I certainly didn't know that NZ sent more soldiers per capita to fight for Britain in WWI than any other country: 1 in 5 of the population). Close by to the Museum, which lies within a sprawling park called the Auckland Domain, is a Wintergarden featuring both winter and tropical greenhouses as well as a fernery - also worth visiting.
We were couchsurfing for our stay in Auckland, with a lovely Indian couple called Raj and Arthi who made us feel very at home, cooked some stunning food (we did our best to return the favour ... hmmm), and were just generally excellent company. They actually live in Takapuna, part of the wider Auckland area but kind of its own town; just further along the coastline from them is Devonport, a sort of olde-worlde Brighton with charming shops and cafes overlooking the sea and with access to the vantage points of small hills such as Mount Victoria. This last spot offers stunning vistas of the whole Auckland massif, as absolutely nobody calls it.
We left Auckland to head north on Monday the 3rd, and are now in one of the country's most famously stunning locations - Paihia, on the Bay of Islands. But more about that next time!