The end of July marks O-bon time in Japan, a tradition honouring ancestors. Based on the old Lunar calendar, many families go off visiting their home villages to visit their loved ones from both sides, on what amongst the living falls around the date of July 15th.
Of course you can’t let your ghosts go hungry…O-bon refers to the container of offerings. This can be food for your otherworldly guests or something else that’s pleasing, like some ethereal floating lanterns.
As could be expected a unique kind of O-bon folk music & dance get a work out in celebrations:
As O-bon is also known as Hungry Ghost Month, i’ll throw in another folk song about ghosts for good measure (& as there are many to choose from!). This one’s an English ballad, referred to as Child Ballad 78 or The Unquiet Grave performed by the lovely Joan Baez:
So I just came back from a short break at our lovely neighbours NZ. It would be easy to stay forever. It would also be super easy to spend a not-so-small fortune on all the activities on offer.
From my stay in Queenstown and Auckland, here’s a list of cheap fun experiences to savour the simple things on your travels…
1. The Vistas
In New Zealand, perhaps particularly so in Queenstown, the scenery is spectacular. No filter necessary. Hailing from Australia, I’m not used to epic mountain scenery. The consistent panoramas all over Queenstown are bedazzling and gratis.
2. Taking It In
Along the same line, with the macro views, New Zealand is also filled with many micro-views. Little spaces of still life that you just want to sit and absorb for while. In December and January there are so many flowers blooming everywhere and lots of great parks to relax in.
3. Cairn Spotting
If you decide to go for a walk on some of the many scenic trails you will probably come across these mystical little piles of rocks. This behaviour has existed across the world since prehistoric times, where people use stones as trail markers. Despite their arcane presence, they are probably just markers… but you can try and add a couple of stones, just for good luck.
4. Quirks and Perks
New Zealand is quirky and fun. Whilst in a totally pimped out pub bathroom, I noticed this gem…
5. Auckland Art Gallery
Good fun on a donation budget. Lots of lovely art and a great cafe with lots of veggie and vegan options. The gallery itself is an architectural treat alone.
As an Australian, I tend to consider myself a bit of a coffee snob. We just have really nice coffee at home. Happily I can say a ‘Kiwi cup o’ joe’ is good. Auckland has a bit of a coffee empire. Try somewhere in the suburb, Britomart, down near the port. You can enjoy a good coffee whilst wistfully gazing in the windows of designer boutiques.
7. Other Beverages
If you’re staying in a hostel in Queenstown there are many drink deals to be had. Staying at Nomads on Church street you receive discounted wines, beers and spirits from $4 at The Find on Shotover street. If you can be bothered lining up for 2+ hours this is the same street of the infamous Fergburger. (You may need those drinks!)
NZ has made a name for wine and also dairy industries. On a budget note, Nippy’s is the flavoured milk I was told to try whilst on a visit to Hobbiton. It’s kind of like Up&Go. I don’t even think it’s Kiwi but Lorde loves it.
Perhaps the best cheap thing exempt from this list is that from Sydney, New Zealand is just a sweet and cheap 3 hour flight away.