The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Visit Landscapes of The Hobbit & LOTR in Glenorchy & Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and renowned for its spectacular lake and mountain scenery, has also been a major base of operations in filming of both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit prequels.

Dozens of nearby locations were used in the movies, making Queenstown a great base from which visitors can explore Middle Earth. Finding some of the remote locations can be a daunting task, though Ian Brodie’s excellent ‘The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook,’ complete with maps, directions and GPS coordinates, makes this a lot easier.

Several tour operators in and around Queenstown also lead well-organized trips to see and experience scene locations from the movies, complete with expert guides who can fill you in on the latest developments in filming for The Hobbit.

I explored film locations northwest of Queenstown, along Lake Wakatipu, with the fantastic Pure Glenorchy Overland Tours. The tour included a memorable picnic lunch at a lake in Mount Aspiring National Park.

The ‘Wizard’s Vale,’ otherwise known as Nan Curunir in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, was a brief cut-scene used in the movies.

This location along Lake Wakatipu was the place in The Two Towers where Sam, Gollum and Frodo argued over the brace of conies and then encountered the Oliphants (giant elephant-like creatures).

The mountains across lake Wakatipu, on the way to Glenorchy.

The elven forests of Lothlorien, at the south end of Mount Aspiring National Park

The only sign that Peter Jackson’s gang was ever here in ‘Lothlorien’ is a camera rig forgotten and left hanging in a tree, still there more than 10 years later.

This landscape (minus the fence) was used for scenery around the tower of Isengard in Lord of the Rings.

This wetlands near Glenorchy was used as the scenery for the Dead Marshes in The Two Towers. It is such a fragile ecosystem and so vital to wetlands birds that Peter Jackson wasn’t allowed to actually bring all the people and equipment for the location shoot here. Instead he filmed the scenery then reassembled the landscape he desired on computers at his studio in Miramar.

Beautiful scenery at Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Beorn’s House. This scenery was recently used for a location film shoot of The Hobbit. The house of Beorn, a shape-shifting character in The Hobbit, was constructed at the site, at the right end of the forest under the mountains, for filming. It was torn down when the filming was finished and the landscape restored to its original state. The first instalment of The Hobbit is scheduled to premier in Wellington in December, 2012.

Contact Pure Glenorchy to book your adventure in the landscapes of Middle Earth.

Pure Glenorchy Overland Tours
tel: +64 3 441 1079
toll free: 0800 787 349

Book a Queenstown hotel with my trusted parter, Agoda:

Red my previous post about The Hobbit film locations around New Zealand. Visit Tourism New Zealand’s website and the official website of Queenstown New Zealand Tourism for more information too: and And stay tuned, I have a Hobbit-themed article coming out in Jetstar Airline's onboard magazine next month too...

All images above, as always, are copyright Adam Bray 2012 and may not be published elsewhere without permission.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vietnam Tourism Numbers Inflated by 40% Year on Year

Everyone living in Vietnam assumed it. Government tourism statistics just didn't match reality. Claims of huge influxes of tourists were common, yet tourist venues remained only moderately busy at best. We all figured the government was lumping in ALL foreign arrivals whenever state-controlled media gave us the 'tourism' arrival statistics. It turns out we are right. Below is a subset of data from the Vietnam government's General Statistics Office. The total numbers reported by the Vietnam press end up being inflated by an average of 40% because they include business, family visits and other (presumably diplomats, students, etc). The government only gave us the grand totals when they announced the latest 'foreign tourist arrivals' before, but never broke it down for us--they never told the truth.


TOTAL (thousands)

Visiting friend & relative      

While I don't have the precise breakdown for 2011, we know the government claimed there was a total of about 6 million foreign tourist arrivals to Vietnam last year. If the figures were inflated at the same rate as previous years, that means there may have really only been about 3.6 million foreign tourists.

This doesn't necessarily change the fact that a certain number of foreigners actually arrived in Vietnam (unless the actual data has been tampered with, which happens a lot in Vietnam), but here's the real problem: Businessmen, students, diplomats and other assorted non-tourist visitors neither spend their money in the same way, nor the same amounts as do tourists. A visiting student in Saigon may never take a cruise in Halong Bay. A businessman in Hanoi for the week may never take the train for a weekend in Sapa. Neither will behave like a tourist, and both might just stay where they are and spend very little money. Dishonestly about tourist statistics by the government leads to a lot of adverse, complicated, and far-reaching effects for business planning, marketing and management in the tourism industry.