Everything Is Illuminated

Finished my second book of the year, Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you've been reading my blog (which is surprising for me), you would have read that this book was mentioned a few times in the previous posts. A quick check in this blog let me know that I got the book in April and I finished it in May, so that's pretty fast for my standard, all thanks to the waiting that I had to do during the trip. It's an interesting and sad book. I guess any story that explores the holocaust is never not sad. It's interesting because of the structure of the book and the stories being presented. There are 2 stories which grew from one central story of an American writer who went to Ukraine to find a lady in a photograph pictured with his grandfather. Interestingly, nothing much is known about the background story of this writer and his life. One of the stories were about this trip to Ukraine being told in chapters written in not so good English by the Ukrainian guide. Another story was a fiction written by the writer about the history of the village his grandfather was form and the first known history of his ancestor up to his grandfather. There were also chapters consisting letters from the Ukrainian guide about his thoughts of the writer's story and about his life. I find it really interesting that we know more about this guide rather than the writer who actually kick started the whole event in the story. All around, the stories didn't end well and it's all so sad, though perhaps it's slightly more hopeful for the guide. I just feel rather sad with how it all ends :( Apparently there's a movie made based on this book. Elijah Wood is in it. I wonder how it goes, hopefully I find my way to watch it.

Reading this book made me realize how I don't know a lot of things about Judaism. So I often cannot picture the scenes from the story well because I don't know the things which were described and I have to say it made me rather sad that I'm so not knowledgeable about this. I often feel rather good that coming from a Buddhist family, grew up in a Christian school, and coming from a country where the majority of the population is Muslim, I know quite a fair bit about these 3 religions. However, it's always the things that are lacking that quickly make you feel bad, at least for me. Judaism seems very interesting since it seems that there are a lot of things that Jewish people needs to observe. Unfortunately Judaism is not visible in my side of the world.

So anyway, decided to go with the classic for the next book, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. It's already close to the middle of the year and I am only starting my 3rd book, I need to hustle? Watch less things? Happened to meet an acquaintance at Kinokuniya yesterday who lent me his membership card which allows for a 20% discount, so since I couldn't quite decide and think the 20% discount is pretty good, I also got number9dream by David Mitchell, who also wrote Cloud Atlas. I wasn't that keen on getting a book from an author whose other works I had read. I think since I did that multiple times with Paulo Coelho, I just felt that there's so many great authors and stories out there to explore, but in the end the cover and the story seems interesting, but yeah for now I am starting first with the classic.

On movie news, I watched Bad Neighbours. I have to say Zac Efron is handsome, didn't realize that in High School Musical. I love Dave Franco more though, I think I start to love him more than James Franco :P While the movie is funny, I got turned off with all the boobs and penis jokes. I also watched Godzilla. Glad that they made Godzilla the hero and sad that Bryan Cranston's character died too soon in the movie. What I didn't watch is the latest Spider-man movie, I didn't watch the first one as well. Also didn't watch Captain America because I also didn't watch the first one. Also didn't watch the latest X-Men movie, though I did watch X-Men: First Class through pirated DVD. I guess I'm just so not interested in all these superheroes movies, though I may watch the latest Transformers since Mark Wahlberg is in it and we love Mark Wahlberg, don't we? :D Okay, nothing else is interesting in my life peeps. Hope all is going well for you. Ciao!

:) eKa @ 8:23:00 PM • 0 comments

Coming Back from New Zealand

Holiday over, it was time for the long trip back to Singapore. I was in a dilemma in which flight to take. The flight which arrived earlier in Singapore would require me to wake up super early and endure a 5-hour transit. The other flight which allowed me to sleep more with shorter transit time would arrive in Singapore close to midnight, providing there's no delay. In the end I thought arriving around 3 hours earlier in Singapore was better. I think it was cheaper too. Chose Super Shuttle to get me to the airport because I wasn't keen on figuring out where the bus stop is at the crack of dawn. Pick up time was 05:10 am and that meant I gotta wake up at 04:00 am. I quickly showered and packed up my things and I managed to get down at around 5 am. The receptionist was closed which made me slightly annoyed because when I checked in I already told the receptionist I had to check out early that day. I pressed the bell, but it didn't seem to work and the child in me ended up pressing it over and over and I guess that sound made the receptionist who was inside the office aware of me. It startled me when he appeared from the dark and he said sorry. Check out was easy peasy since I had paid in advanced. Went to the front door and before long the shuttle arrived. Stupid me didn't realized that there's another person inside and I got a bit of a shocked when I heard a cough as we were waiting to pick up another person. There was an old man sitting at the back. The other person wasn't there or was already picked up by another shuttle, so in the end it was just me and the old man. He was dropped first at the domestic terminal and then I was dropped next. The driver was being your usual nice Kiwi, saying have a good day in a singsong kinda way that people in New Zealand often does.

I have to say that the people in New Zealand are very nice and that was kinda overwhelming at first, especially for the socially awkward me. You go to buy something or ask for information and the people at the counter will be like, "Hello, how are you today?" and this kinda thing doesn't happen in Singapore and at first it's weird and perhaps making me rather anxious because I was thinking, oh I have to make conversation with these people. Then they would also never fail to let you know to have a good day after they finish helping you. So it's all very polite and nice and while it's making me nervous at first especially because I felt I wasn't being that friendly, towards the end with that shuttle driver I remember thinking that I would miss all that. In huge contrast coming back to Singapore, where the people in the counter don't even bother to give you a Hi or Hello, I felt like it's all a bit cold. This makes me think that people coming from this kind of culture must have felt the people here in Singapore is darn cold. Perhaps enough to amplify loneliness if that person is alone. Then I wonder about Indonesia and Jakarta. I suppose the people in the service industry in Indonesia might be in general nicer than in Singapore? I have written before about my experience watching a movie in Jakarta, where the person at the counter made sure I got all my tickets correct and explained everything to me like where the cinema was and asked if there's anything else I needed. Also every person working in Starbucks in Jakarta that I have walked in seemed to be so friendly, not that they are not in Singapore, but I guess in Singapore it's all about being effective and efficient and getting things done fast that I'm pretty sure small talk is not something that's inside the training manual when these people were trained to do the work. This also makes me wonder if it's just a cultural thing in New Zealand that it's just the way people are, like this is what they learn in Kindergarten and such about being nice to people and it's not something that is demanded in their work. Another thing that I noticed was that sometime I had difficulty understanding their English. Sometime the accent made my brain stop for a moment to process what's just being said. There were also occasions where I wasn't being understood and for the first time ever since I don't know when or ever, I felt kinda inadequate with my English :( There weren't many moments like this, but they happened and so that's kinda ironic in a way, being in a country where English is the main language and yet having problem with it.

Anyway, going back to the story, I arrived in Auckland airport early enough. Did some last minute shopping. Still had enough time to go to the viewing platform which wasn't that awesome. On the way there I saw some people sleeping in their sleeping bags. They must be backpackers. Another reminder for me that I will not be able to rough it out like that, though one shouldn't underestimate oneself, perhaps if I really really really have to, I'll do just fine. Saw the orange ray from the sunrise lighting up the sky and I remember thinking that's the last of Auckland and New Zealand that I would see.

New Zealand Immigration didn't stamp my passport out. I wondered if that's just what they don't do. The not knowing kinda bothered me, but I didn't go back and ask. I guess because my visa is only for single entry anyway and the passport is expiring soon, so I just thought it didn't matter. The first flight was to Sydney and it was with Qantas. The in flight entertainment was great, full season of many TV series which again made me rather irritated because on the longer Qantas flight, they don't have full seasons of these TV series, usually they only have 3 episodes. I find this super annoying. If ever we have the time to marathon watch something, wouldn't it be on the longer flight? I don't know what's on the mind of the people who made these decisions. I got a window seat and approaching Australia, I saw this big shore which I thought was very interesting.

Arriving in Sydney Airport the second time around, I was more relaxed because I kinda already knew my way around and I had 5 hours to spend. I found out that my next flight was from the other wing. Spending the 5-hour transit, I had lunch, read a lot of chapters from Everything Is Illuminated, shopped a bit, wondered if I should get the kangaroo jerky, but in the end I didn't, and had hot chocolate to spend my last few Australian dollars. By the way, Qantas is helping UNICEF by collecting donation, so I gave them all my remaining New Zealand and Australian dollars. Not much, but I guess it's better than just keeping them unused.

For the flight to Singapore, I got an aisle seat. The plane was bigger than when I first flew in from Singapore that there were 3 seats at the side block. There's just another lady in my block sitting by the window, so the middle seat was empty and that's great. The pilot was cute because he was telling us like in 5 minutes we'll be passing Uluru and he told us what view we could expect. I wonder if all Qantas pilots flying in this direction do this. Since I wasn't in the window seat, I was thinking of going to the big window by the exit door, but other people was already thinking the same and there were some people crowding there. It was one of the weirdest flying experience I had with everyone sitting at the side block standing up looking at their windows. I didn't see much, I remember seeing the landscape around Uluru to be like sands in wavy formation, I think those are sands not river. I did see a glimpse of Uluru as the lady in my row nicely pointed to me, but not enough to take any picture. She also didn't manage to take any picture.

Arriving in Singapore, it's life as usual. The hot weather was not something I miss. I went to this trip feeling not excited, but I have to say that like any other trips I have taken, it has been great. One of the news in New Zealand that captured my attention was about this New Zealand tourist who's around my age who got shot and killed in Argentina when he was trying to stop getting robbed. Though he wasn't alone when the incident happened (there were 2 other tourists from other countries with him), I think he was alone on his trip. It was sad because to die when you are travelling and doing something awesome and since I was doing the same thing, it all feels very tragic and it makes me feel thankful that God does look after me all the time in all my trips. I don't know if it will get easier, that I will not get nervous anymore whenever I travel alone again, but I think I have to remind myself that the fear shouldn't be the reason that stops me from doing something that I know I will treasure. There were great views to be seen and they have been breathtaking and make me feel grateful for the opportunity, but other than that, the fact that I managed to make a connection, however short, with other people will also always be another side of travelling that I treasure. The fact that I could do this makes me feel good about myself :) Again, I thank God for the blessing, it has been awesome. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me! - Psalm 66:20.

:) eKa @ 9:40:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Hobbiton

Hobbiton is the last place that I visited in New Zealand. Also took a day tour for this, but it finishes early, supposedly around 3 pm back in New Zealand so that was kinda perfect for me who needed to fly off the next day. This tour departs rather early. The pick up time for me was 06:50 am. I got down and it turned out they're already there. I didn't notice it at first but the driver / guide / chaperon was apparently already asking the hotel receptionist about me. They were early, a good thing they didn't wait long, if not I would feel bad. So there's me and another 2 girls, Patricia, an American, and Juliana, an ex-Indonesian who's now an Australian. It did occur to me that I have to be thankful for this group. It's a really small group, but imagine, without them I would have been alone and that would be so awkward for me. Patty was nice, but quiet. I guess when you have someone like Juli around, you don't get much time to talk. Juli is obnoxious. I think it's too early in this post to bitch about her, so I'll save it for later and move on with the story of the trip.

So it's a drive to Hobbiton. The morning was particularly foggy that day, which I still thought as cool, even though visibility level was really low. We arrived I think before 10 am at Hobbiton. The story about this place is quite interesting. Here's what I remember. Peter Jackson's wife grew up near the area and she remembers the landscape of the farms there and thought it would be a good setting for The Shire. So they went to the farmer who owns the land and ask if they could use his land. The farmer didn't even know what The Lord of the Rings were but he gave the okay. Then the movie studio working with the New Zealand government managed to get the New Zealand army to build roads and move things around to shape the landscape as needed for the film. I thought that was rather insane. In this trip, I found out that New Zealand has a population of around 4.5 million and obviously an area bigger than Singapore. With that population, their army shouldn't be that big and with a country area which is not actually small, I would have thought they have better things to do like guard the country, but there you go, they had time to build roads and such for a movie. Then the movie studio also managed to get a no-fly zone established over this area. It seemed there were people violating this and the pilot was stripped of his license for life. I repeat FOR LIFE! I really think all of this are insane!!! Yes, the secrecy is important and such, but there are better things to do with all these resources, like feed the hungry people, get clean water in poor areas, you know things like that? It's amazing how much power a movie studio can wield. I like movies and tv a lot, but I can't help feeling slightly troubled with this information :(

Anyways, to visit Hobbiton, you have to be guided into it. We're put together with another group, luckily not big. First we have to be driven to set. The bus driver was so funny. I think his name is Ben. Then our guide was Ethan W (I feel uneasy writing his full name) and he's cute. He's also only 23 and I was like feeling sad because I am so old and it's just another reminder how it's so not right to be crushing on 20 something. So Ethan told us that Ben played the Orc in Lord of the Rings and I felt kinda guilty because I don't know what an orc is. Apparently he kinda carried either Merry or Pippin in the film. I know who these characters are but I don't know which one is which. So I guess, I feel slightly bad for being inadequately knowledgeable about all this while there are really hard core fans in the mix or other hard core fans who have visited this place. Let me share some of the stories I have been told. Apparently it's not unusual for people to arrive in costumes and not necessarily LOTR costumes. Too bad no one in my group was in costume. Once there was a guy who was in full hobbit gear and he didn't want to leave until they managed to convince him to go during closing time. There were also 2 guys who were strangers and became friends because they found out both of them could speak elvish and then they just started conversing in elvish throughout the visit. I know ... what?!? ... and oh Internet, you ... However, the craziest thing I heard was of this lady who bought the ring in the gift shop, it was 149 NZD if I'm not mistaken and then took a helicopter ride over Mt. Doom and drop the ring there. Insane? Indeed. So anyways, in my group, there were hard core fans who knew stuff and could recite lines, but all seemed to be putting it inside. Perhaps it's one of those things, like if these people have been in a group with other hard core fans, things could really be interesting ;)

So The Shire is as pretty as it was in the film and there were a lot of details being put into this. It's bigger than I expected. They have gardeners who maintain the look and feel of this whole thing. The houses are just props meaning they're not functional houses. This set are used only for exterior shots, of scenes happening outdoor. The scenes which are happening inside the house were shot in a studio in Wellington. There are some doors that open but inside there's nothing. On one of them, there's just like only a really small area where they kept lights and umbrellas for the rainy days. I'm not a hardcore fan, but I couldn't deny feeling excited seeing all this :P It's really beautiful and cute. So this is Bilbo Baggins' house or which I called "the house" :D The tree on top of it is actually fake. I think they got the leaves from Taiwan and glued it on. It's still good enough though for the birds to hang out in it. The leaves do fall off, in fact one fell off and one of the girl who was a hard core fan asked if she could keep it and she was allowed to. She was giddy with happiness :P

This one right here is Sam's house and yes I know which one is that :) His house is quite nice in a lower area with an open field and a small lake around it.

This below is one view of some parts of The Shire overlooking the small lake and Green Dragon Inn which was the last stop and where we got free beer. I couldn't rememember the name of the brew I drank. I asked for a lighter one, but it was quite heavy for me, perhaps because I wasn't much of a drinker, or perhaps because my stomach was rather empty, or perhaps because I drank pretty much the whole thing?

So that was it, we're driven back to the visitor center, where me, Patty, Juli, and our chaperon, Dion, had lunch and then we're given some time to shop. Then it was a drive back to Auckland with a stop at a small town, Pokeno, for ice cream break :D I heard this town was kinda brought back to life because of the 2 ice cream shops side by side. Me and Patty tried the New Zealand's favorite, the hokey pokey, which was okay for me. I don't fancy the hokey pokey nugget much. It was very cheap at just 1.50 NZD for a big scoop. I actually wanted 2 scoops, but the rests were just having one, so I was kinda shy about it :( The trip was a good one for me that day. For more pictures, please go here. Unfortunately there was a traffic jam on the way to Auckland, so we arrived at around 4 pm instead of 3. Still enough time for Patty to make it to the airport, because she was leaving that day.

With nothing much to do in Auckland, I decided to visit the Sky Tower. Honestly I don't have much interest in visiting things like this, but really because I couldn't think of what else to do so I did this, the same reason why I did the Christchurch Gondola. There are 2 observation floors which you can go into. It was somewhat interesting to see what's around Auckland, there's like mountains and islands nearby. Unfortunately the glass is tinted blue so all my pictures are bluish.

There are also some glass panels on the floor which apparently make some people, who's afraid of height, nervous about seeing the streets below. I saw a girl sped down from doing the Sky Jump and some people doing the Sky Walk. I actually planned to do the Sky Walk, but since I successfully had flown in that small plane in Lake Tekapo to see amazing mountains, I think doing the Sky Walk would just be so pale in comparison. So here, I actually saw Juli again. Being the nice me, I said "Hi" to her even though I was certain that I don't like her from the little time we spent together that day. Now that I think about it, I wonder if she saw me first but being the snob that she is, she decided not to say "Hi". I was actually excited about finding out she's Indonesian, though now she's become Australian. That is not the reason why I dislike her though. She's just a very obnoxious person. She's been in Australia for 20 years and I think she wants to say she hates Indonesia, but couldn't find the way to say it. If you want to say there are things about Indonesia that you don't like that make you change your citizenship, you should just say it and stand by your decision. I don't know if it will sit well with me, but maybe if you're a good enough of a speaker, you wouldn't come across as a snob. This also makes me think about Anggun, the singer who's originally from Indonesia but has become a french citizen. She changed her citizenship but she never denounces her Indonesian roots and in fact she's very proud of it and this makes me admire her a lot. Anyway, this darn lady is originally from Makassar and I guess the many times she said, "I don't like" were the reasons which made me think she's one of those snob. She actually did the same tour as me the day before, but she was in the group with the Japanese from Hokkaido instead of mine. I didn't recall seeing her initially, but as the day went on and she got more annoying, I remembered her. The day before she was being annoying to a blonde girl who was travelling alone. Even without interacting with her, I could see that she's not a very nice person, that I noticed her enough to be thankful she wasn't in my group and I remembered wondering if she's a Singaporean. For the Singaporean reading this, I'm sorry that I saw an annoying Chinese looking person and I thought she's a Singaporean. She looks more Singaporean than Chinese China, hence I think that way and she exhibited the "kiasu" and annoying "I know better" attitude that some Singaporeans do. I remembered overhearing she's describing her vacation to Seville to the blonde girl and she also unloaded many of her vacation stories to our little Hobbiton group. I got it even worse because she even whipped her phone to show me pictures from her trip to Uluru without me asking for it. What kind of an ass forced people, people you barely know, to see pictures of your vacation? An obnoxious person, that's who. She also talked about herself all the time and she didn't listen to other. Maybe it's just to me, because perhaps she thinks she's better than me, I am just a lowly Indonesian after all. She was that annoying that when she talked about how her feet hurt and she needed to set up a doctor's appointment when she returns in the middle of my sentence explaining I was to go back the next day, I decided that it's enough. I needed to get away from this self centered person. She didn't even say good bye to me. I don't think she even looked at me when I still nicely said bye, because she needed to call her mom. Seriously, I don't know when was the last time I got to know someone this obnoxiously unpleasant. By the way, she's a nurse!!! A nurse! I cannot imagine it. Maybe she's effective with difficult patients because she wouldn't listen to their crap, but darn I would be so annoyed with this kinda nurse who doesn't seem to have any caring bone in her body. This makes me think about the 2 nursing students I have had the chance to interact with these past few months. They are first-year students and they're very very nice and when I think of them in light of this awful lady, I feel good about Singaporean nurses :D

So since I really couldn't take being around her anymore, I decided to leave. Wanted to explore what other things Sky City has to offer, but there's nothing much. It's definitely not like Marina Bay Sands. There's a casino. Considering I have to pay to gain entry to a casino here in Singapore, one may think that I should make use of this free entry in another country, but then I didn't. I decided to call it the day and go back to the hotel. I needed to rest because I needed to get up at 4 am for my 05:10 am pick up to the airport the next day. I made a stop at the convenience store next door to the hotel and bought an apple. The cashier asked me where I'm from and though I wasn't in a chatty mood, I did answer him. Then he started speaking in Indonesian and he's very fluent in it. He's originally from Iran and he had lived in Indonesia for 8 years before, in different places like Jakarta and Surabaya. 8 years living in a country is enough to make you master the language? Well perhaps for Indonesian it is because Indonesian is not actually difficult. I asked him if living in New Zealand is better. He said he loved it in Indonesia because he thought Indonesia is great, the places are beautiful, the people are nice, it's awesome. I guess if you compare it to Iran, yes Indonesia is amazing in many ways :) The not-chatty me didn't ask why he left Indonesia but I told him I was going back the next day but to Singapore because that's where I live. He then said he's always confused why people want to leave Indonesia, to which I could only say in English that perhaps people just want to make more money which they couldn't in Indonesia no matter how hard they work. That's pretty much my short conversation with him. I was pleasantly surprised being able to converse with him Indonesian and that kinda made my day back to being good after being ruined by meeting Juli the second time. This cashier may not be as rich or as knowledgeable as Juli, but I would rather hang out with him where I can have good conversation than with such an appalling person. I know I bitch a lot about this woman, but I don't think I paint enough picture of what an obnoxious person she is. Anyway, this post is the last story from the trip. The next post will be about the trip back (not that it's interesting) and a bit of my reflection about New Zealand.

:) eKa @ 6:16:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Waitomo & Rotorua

The trip to Waitomo and Rotorua was done with a day tour that I booked. I'm such a weird person that I get all anxious if I have to explore a place by myself AND if I have to do it with a day tour. Alone makes me all nervous because I only have to rely on myself. A day tour makes me all nervous because I don't know how the crowd will be and being alone it's like going into a class for a first time when you know no one and you feel like you want to just not do this. Well not really reaching the point of not wanting to do this, but there's more nerve than necessary. Of course it's started with the pick up where you wonder if the people who supposed to pick you up remember that and when they're just a few minutes late, you're getting more anxious. That morning, I got down to the lobby. Saw a couple waiting. I kinda wondered if they're doing the same tour as me, but perhaps it's too early that I didn't feel like speaking yet. The pick up for me was late but I know they didn't forget me because a fax was waiting for me when I checked in the day before to remind me of this, so it's very nice of them. I booked this tour from my usual place, Viator, and it turned out this is the Great Sights tour, similar to the bus I took in Lake Tekapo to take me to Christchurch. So anyway, the bus came. The couple didn't get on, so they're weren't in my group. It turned out like in Japan, this bus would take us to the meeting point where we would be sorted out. There was already a queue of people waiting to get sorted out, so I didn't arrive that early. Side note: I could actually walk to Sky City where the meeting point is and that would like take me faster, but since before I arrived I didn't know if I'd be able to figure my way out, I wanted it to be made easy with a pick up. So I got sorted out, the lady gave me a small bowl of fruit, how nice and off I got into the bus. The bus was already quite filled, but I managed to find a window seat at the back where the toilet is, but thankfully no one used the toilet during the drive.

The driver / commentary guide is Reese, who's really a charming fellow. I really kinda admire these people who have to drive a bus on long journey and talk about stuff throughout. Along with him, there's also another staff, like in the bus I took in Lake Tekapo, it's a Japanese speaking lady. Maybe there's always many Japanese and perhaps they often don't really speak English. In this bus, there's actually only 1 couple from Osaka. The wife seemed to speak a bit of English. I talked a bit to her later in the day. Anyways, first stop was to the Waitomo Cave which has glowworms in it. You have to be guided to enter the cave which is perhaps a good idea. You don't want stupid people scribble something on the beautiful cave. It was actually pretty cool (and I mean that literally too), kinda what I imagined a cave would be and I meant that in kinda a modern way where the paths are not challenging and at times there's railing. Forgive me for being silly, but it is the first cave I have ever entered and I like that it's not tough. There are many stalagmites and stalactites and I did see a drop of water in one of the stalactite just waiting to drop. There's also an open space which they called The Cathedral and the guide said it has very good acoustic that they sometime have musical performance there. The guide asked if anyone wanted to sing, I think they do this with every group. No one did in our group and so he sang a Māori song which sounded nice. Later on, there was a girl in another group who sang Halelujah and she sounded really beautiful. In the cave itself, there isn't any glowworms, so then we were taken to a dock where in groups we're to take a boat to get out of the cave. Here is where the glowworms are and it's mesmerizing. It's pitch black, so all you can see are these blue lights from the worms. They don't twinkle, but after awhile your eyes perhaps kinda fool you into thinking they are. The guide told us to be quiet when on the boat to make the experience much better and we all did even while waiting. I was really surprised how the staff knows where or how to go because it's really dark, it turned out they feel their way with the ropes which are attached in the cave. It's an indescribable experience. The glowworms huddled together and they're like forming a map of a place you never know. It's haunting at the same time, that I feel like it's perhaps what it's like when you take the boat to meet Hades. Seriously, it's one of the most unique experience of my life, to which there's no comparison. Photographs are not allowed in the cave and the underground river, so I got postcards. Unfortunately my pictures of them didn't come out alright, but it's roughly what Waitomo Cave and the glowworms light are like.

The boat ride is not actually very long and they we came out to the light and this is where everyone took pictures of what little bit of the cave and river than we could see. This is also where the girl from Osaka asked me to take a picture of her and her husband, perhaps she's more comfortable asking fellow Asian and since I was alone, obviously I'm not intimidating :)

After that we got our lunch which is in a box, a big box. That kinda made me happy because that meant there's no need for the awkwardness of having to sit in a table with strangers, which to be fair, I have had nice conversation when I had to sit and eat in a table with strangers, but still I am by default feel nervous about having to put myself in social situation with strangers. So the box, it's big, there's a sandwich which I didn't really investigate what's inside it. My reasoning is if I see what's really in it, I would be all too picky and take out things. It tasted nice which reminded me of the Surabaya Om whom I met who told me they didn't fancy the lunch. I think there's chicken, some vegetable, heaps of cheese, and jam? The jam part was rather weird but turned out to taste nice altogether. Then there's cheese cake which was awesome. Then there's a muffin which at first I thought was corn muffin, but it's not, I don't know what it was, but it's nice. Then there's a small juice box and an apple. I ate all, but I saved the apple because there's just too much to eat.

After that we went to the Agrodome in Rotorua where we're split into groups, the people who's continuing to Rotorua (which is me) and the people going to Hobbiton. My group is rather small, I think there's only 7 of us. Agrodome itself is a farm where they do show and tell. First we went to watch a demonstration of a sheep being sheared. As I walked to get seated, a lady said hey to me while raising her hand. It turned out it's the lady from that morning in the hotel. I was surprised actually, especially because she's Japanese and Japanese are reserved, they don't usually show big emotion, and she was like waving saying hi excitedly :D It turned out she took a different tour doing exactly the same thing as me. Her group was also small, so for the rest of the day our 2 groups were grouped together. Anyway, I think the show and tell was shorter than usual because our combined group was small, so we only saw a sheep being sheared. Later on I saw that with a bigger group, the show and tell included showing different types of sheep. The shearing of the sheep was very interesting though because of how submissive and calm the sheep throughout the whole thing. The guy had to do it very slowly for the purpose of showing us how to do it. He said in real life, they could shear a sheep in a matter of seconds and they should because they get paid by the number of sheep they shear. Do you know that the sheep's wool has some kind of oil in it and they say that's why the shearers have very soft hand. After that we went to see how the sheep dog, Dot, shepherded the sheep. The guy said the technique that Dot was doing is called mustering. She didn't bark, she just kinda mustered the sheep to the direction she wanted by her stand and looking at them. I supposed it's like giving them the bitch look though she didn't look bitchy at all :D She was sweet and obedient. Then off we went on a ride being pulled by a tractor to see the rest of the farms. Here we saw cows and different kinds of sheep. There were ostriches and chicken too.

At one point, we stopped to feed the sheep which I didn't do because I'm such spoilt brat that I didn't want to get dirty. I did get down and doing that itself was already quite a mess because the ground was littered with poo. It was interesting seeing sheep actually moving and running. As expected in New Zealand, when you're on the road, you will just see sheep after sheep after sheep and what they do is just eat and eat and eat, from morning to night. I wonder how many hours they take to sleep, they're all just munching away all the time. They're cute though. They're used to this, so they're running towards us knowing we have food. Some of them were really smart that they just went to the box where the feed was. They also went to crowd around me and that kinda made me uneasy but I stood my ground and just looked at them as they looked at me, telling them I got nothing for them. Then they just moved to other people. They're seriously very cute.

After that we went to Te Puia where there's a geyser, exciting stuff :D First off was to see a Māori concert. Before we could get to the hall, a guy must volunteer on the behalf of us tourists to do the greeting ritual / ceremony with the Māori warriors. A guy actually straight away raised his hands. I guess it's a rare chance so you gotta grab it. I have to say that the Māori warriors were intimidating. They're also big guys. Our tourist guy had to pick up a leaf and then that's pretty much is I guess, he went inside the hall and we too could go inside. He then did the pressing of the nose thing with the chief and the other guys and that's it. Then it's some songs and dance which was all very interesting and I am glad that I got to experience this :)

Then it's off to see the geyser with the guide. While waiting for people, I talked a bit with the Japanese lady from this morning. Her english is superb. They're from Hokkaido and I told her about my trip last year to Sapporo and me seeing Moerenuma Park. She's pretty nice and friendly that I think I asked her to take my picture later on. The geyser was amazing and there's a rainbow when we were there. This was my first ever experience seeing a geyser and I am thankful to God for this opportunity :)

We also saw a mud pool which is an area with hot mud that the mud would jump up. The splash wasn't that high though, thankfully perhaps :)

Then we went to see 2 kiwi birds in an enclosure. I was blind that I could only spot one, the male one, even though the guide was already telling us where the birds were. In my defense the enclosure was dark. Stupid me thought kiwi bird is very big, but it's not, it's like a chicken size, maybe slightly bigger. Now I wonder if Jurong Bird Park has kiwi birds in its collection. That's pretty much the day. We're given another chicken sandwich and water for tea break, which I ate at around 6 pm, but even then I couldn't finish it all. I think we were well fed in this trip. We picked up the Hobbiton group and then we made our way back to Auckland. It was already dark and people were mostly sleeping. I noticed that the sky had amazing stars. Well looking at them from inside the bus is not ideal because of the reflection on the window from the light inside the bus, but they sky had so many stars that I knew it was amazing and I thought it must be great to be able to go outside and put your head up. We reached Auckland at around 8 pm. Long day, but it was one of the great days. All the things I saw were pretty amazing and the day was beautiful with blue sky. For pictures from this trip, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 9:34:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Auckland

On the day I left Christchurch, it was raining. My room happened to have a balcony which I shared with the next door neighbour and when I went out to see what it's like, the wind was pretty strong that the leaves in the tree in front of me were barely holding on. Felt kinda sorry for the people who had to brave the weather and walk to work.

I again chose Super Shuttle to take me to the airport and the driver was already waiting for me. I felt kinda bad, I didn't know how long he had been waiting. He greeted me with "Selamat pagi". Upon seeing the Putri in my name, he guessed correctly that I'm Indonesian. It turned out his wife is from Flores and he has a 5-year old whose name is Alana Putri. I thought it's a very cute name. We talked a bit on the way to pick other people. I think he perhaps expected to speak some Indonesian with me, but I kinda stuck with English. There's traffic jam because of the rain, well Christchurch style, not comparable to Jakarta style, so he tried different routes. We passed Hagley Park and he pointed out that there's already quite flooded there, well I think there's around 5 - 10 cm of water. It turned out to be quite a bad day for Christchurch that day because the rain didn't let up and I saw in the news that some areas were flooded. The driver was telling me as much and I wondered how flooded would the area would be. I was thinking if this would be one of those things that people in Indonesia would think as mild and yet people in these developed countries think as horrible because they're not used to it. He said the water could reach the waist, so I guess it's legitimately awful. He asked me what the word for flood in Indonesian is - for your information, it's banjir. I told him that people in Jakarta is so used to with flood because we have it every year, so people would just prepare for it when the rainy season comes. Now that I think about it, I think it's difficult for the people in Christchurch to prepare because most of the houses are 1-storey high, that kinda makes it hard to evacuate yourself when the flood comes. In Jakarta, many people would just go upstairs when the flood comes. So anyway, I made it to the airport okay. The driver said, "terima kasih" to me and I was glad to have had a nice conversation with him. It was really cold when I left and I did feel a bit bad leaving Christchurch on one its worse days.

Took Jetstar to go to Auckland. With no in-flight entertainment, I spent time time reading Everything Is Illuminated. Was feeling really sad when one of the characters died that I was fighting tears and had to put down the book after I finished that chapter. It's strange and unexpected that I didn't expect that reading something could stir so much emotion. Arriving in Auckland, I haven't settled on my transportation to the hotel. I didn't book super shuttle because the cost was quite high that I thought if it was necessary. I found airbus express online, it's a bus service from the airport to the city. It doesn't drop you on your hotel door, but it seems that one of the bus stops is very near to my hotel. As google maps puts it, it's a 4-minute walk. It was quite a dilemma about choosing this or super shuttle. I'm so lazy and so that kinda made me feel like I shouldn't be lazy and spoilt! In the end, I left it to the weather. If it's raining, I'd take super shuttle, if it's not then I'd take the bus. The sky was grey, but no rain, so the bus it was. I found the bus counter easy enough and as I arrived, one of the bus just left, but fret not, the bus frequency is every 10 minutes. The staff at the counter told me to stop at bus stop number 3. I got on into the bus, at first the bus driver didn't understand me (damn I got that more often than I'd like in this trip), but in the end he did understand me and he concurred that it's stop number 3. Not many people in the bus and we skipped stops because no one was getting down or flagging the bus. When it's time to get down, the bus driver asked for me to get down from the front door, I guessed so that he could let me know to walk straight and turn left, which I already knew from google maps. What google maps didn't tell you is that it's a hike!!! So that wasn't fun when you drag the luggage, but before I got all panicky, I did spot the hotel, Best Western.

I chose a studio room and it's the nicest room I have ever stayed in except for 2 major issues. To reach my room, I have to go to the emergency staircase because that's where the room is and so it's isolated from the rest of the rooms. Since I'm a girl alone, that's kinda unnerving. Another major issue was that the big mirror facing the bed and there's also mirror panel at the bed headboard. If only I didn't learn that mirror facing a bed is bad, I would have been fine, but since I know about this, I felt kinda uneasy :( The good news about the room is, it's big and there's a functional pantry with a microwave and a big fridge, all of which I didn't really use. The bed is also a king size bed, but because of the mirror issue, I only slept on one side since the chair could only cover one side of the bed and I could use 1 of the 4 pillows to cover one of the back panel. On my first night, I'm not sure if it's all because of these mirrors, but around 10 pm when I was already asleep (I slept quite early in New Zealand), I seemed to hear someone knocking my door furiously. I finally got up and sit on my bed and said "excuse me?", but then I didn't hear any knocking. I waited for awhile but instead of checking the door, I went to pee first. Then I went to the door and looked into the peephole. Darn it! It is a very scary thing to do this when you thought there's something, but there's no one. I told someone about this and she asked why would you actually go and look?!?! I don't know, I guess I always do what I supposed to do? So anyway, I got quite freaked out and was praying telling God that I freaked out and please let everything be alright. Everything was alright and I managed to go back to sleep. Seriously I don't know if there's something or the thoughts about the mirrors screwed my mind.

Anyway, I went ahead of myself. So anyway, after exploring my room, I decided to go explore Auckland a bit. Now it's a bit of a shock being in Auckland. I know I complain about the non-existence of many things in Christchurch, but I did get overwhelmed with the location of my hotel. It's a busy street, there's a convenience store next door which opens 24 hours it seems, so it's kinda great. Nearby there's also a supermarket and many things, you can find food easily. That also means there were many many people and for the anti social me, it starts to make me feel uncomfortable. I guess I'll always have things to complain about, yeah? More complaining to come. My first stop was to the Auckland Art Gallery through Albert Park. The walk there was hard or perhaps I'm so out of shape. It's actually not very far from where my hotel is, but Auckland can be quite a bitch to walk in. I don't know how to explain Auckland, there are many slopes up and down. The walk to go to Albert Park involved going up and it's pretty demanding that my heart rate was increasing. Made it Albert Park, didn't really explore each and every corner of it because I was tired, I just saw there's a fountain, then I made my way to the gallery. It was pretty nice, but I didn't take any picture. I don't think it's allowed anyway. I was still tired that I'm not sure if I explored every single thing, but I think I did. There were paintings and some installation arts. It's a pretty cool space to spend time in and it's free :)

Then I decided to go to the viaduct area. It was quite a long walk. It was okay, I guess, not extremely interesting. I saw the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the yachts. The most interesting thing I saw is the Wynyard Bridge opening up to let a yacht through. Funny story, I was walking on it and I did hear some sound, but I didn't realize it was the alarm to let people know to get off the bridge immediately and not walk on it. It wasn't that alarming for me. I finally realized what's happening because I saw people were watching the bridge, I quickly walked off. Then after all is cleared, the bridge started to rise up and then some time later a yacht passed through. It was my first time watching a bridge opening up like this, so that was interesting. I wonder if the yacht had to let the operator know that they want to get through to get it opened up. There were many rich looking yachts at the viaduct.

Then I decided I should go for a late lunch / early dinner and ended the day. Chose Portofino because it's an Italian restaurant and that's like comfort food number 2 after Indonesian. At that time, I was the only person eating there. The waiter who served me was a blonde older man. I didn't expect him to be Italian, but then came 2 young men who talked to this waiter in Italian about jobs as waiters. I picked up a bit of their conversation. Anyway, then the waiter suspected that I could speak Italian and asked me, to which I answered "pochissimo" (very little). We then started talking a bit in Italian, the usual question about where I'm from and such. I found out that he used to live in Australia but then moved to New Zealand. I asked if New Zealand was better and why there since it's very far from Italy. He said that New Zealand is far from everywhere and he said that it's a bit racist there in Australia. That surprised me. I told him mostly to Asian rights? He said, no. He said when you speak English and they can tell if you're not Australian, it's like there's a line, you and them. So that's kinda surprising but refreshing to hear him speaks openly. It's amazing how you can get people to open up to you just by speaking their language a bit :) So anyway, after that I decided to go back and rest. The next day would be a long one. For pictures of Auckland, you can go here, some of the pictures were from my last day there.

:) eKa @ 9:59:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - TranzAlpine Train & Arthur Pass

Arthur Pass was another trip I made on my own. I did wonder if I should do it. It's a national park and visiting it means hiking around in nature. I'm such a lazy bum who don't exercise, so I'm not sure if it would be a good idea for me to do this. However since there's nothing much to do in Christchurch, I decided that despite of me being reluctant, I should take myself there. My OCD level reached new heights on this trip, I was obsessively checking the weather. My 2 options to do this was on Friday or Monday. The weather was to be much better on Friday, however that would mean that I would have had to get my train tickets immediately on the Thursday when I arrived and I would have had to wake up early on Friday and straight away go do something strenuous, which is perhaps alright, since that means I could do something light on Monday, which is usually what I prefer to do the day before I suppose to fly off. A check on the weather also revealed that the weather on Monday in Christchurch would be worse than in Arthur Pass even though there would be shower in Arthur Pass as well. I pretty much haven't made a decision by the time I left. When I arrived on Thursday, tired, and with my period manifesting itself, I decided to just do it on a Monday. It didn't go extremely well because of the rain, but overall I thought Arthur Pass is great. In retrospect, I still think it's a much better choice to spend the day in Arthur Pass than Christchurch, because with the rain I think would have ended up in the Museum all day if I had had to spend it in Christchurch.

So anyway, to get to Arthur Pass, there are more than 1 way, but I chose to take the TranzAlpine train. The train ride has been described as very scenic. There are things to see, but I don't think it's exceptionally gorgeous. To get the train ticket, it's quite a hassle. Apparently if you go to its website from outside New Zealand, you couldn't get the cheapest ticket. There were some suggestion on the internet on how to get around this. I tried the Rail New Zealand site too and the price was much cheaper than the Kiwi Rail site, but I decided to just use i-SITE to buy the tickets. So I waited until I arrived. The reason for this is so that I could also specify that I want a front facing window seat as well as get booked for the free shuttle to take me to the train station in the morning. The train station is some distance away and taxis on the street of Christchurch is so rare. It's not like you can walk the street and see one. The return ticket cost 189 NZD from Christchurch to Arthur Pass, pretty much the same price I saw in Rail New Zealand. Is it the cheapest price? I don't know, but it's definitely cheaper than the Kiwi Rail site. The train leaves Christchurch at 08:15 am, reaches Arthur Pass at around 10:42 am, and it will arrive back in Arthur Pass supposedly at around 03:57 pm, to reach Christchurch back at 06:05 pm. So you have around 5 hours to explore Arthur Pass.

The free shuttle came to pick me up and some other people and off we went to the train station which was very small but adequate. There were people, but not many people waiting for the train. Got my ticket and before I could say can I get a car near the viewing car, my ticket was already issued. The viewing car is a car without any seat and the windows have no glass. I read about this, you can go to this car to take pictures, the benefit is your pictures wouldn't have the reflection of the glass. So it turned out, I was placed in the last car, and the viewing car is the 2nd car after the train head (is this what it's called?). You know it's always nice to get into a train without having to lug a suitcase, but anyways if you do have any luggage, the staff will help you store it in their storing area, which is a good idea I think, so the car wouldn't get cramped. There weren't many people in my car and I think throughout the train. Everyone who traveled alone, all get their own seat. The train is pretty nice and they gave you earphones because there would be audio guide on the the areas we passed. The weather was cloudy, so my pictures haven't been great on this trip, but we passed a really nice river whose water is light blue

I actually really wanted to go to the viewing car, but I wasn't feeling confident about walking all the way passing all the cars to get there, but then I heard a mom who was sitting in front of me asking the kids if they would like to, so I kinda followed them from behind. On the way there, I passed by the Indian family from the day before and it turned out the dad and son followed me too. When I arrived, there were many people in the viewing platform so it's actually kinda hard to get a spot take pictures. We passed several tunnels and when this happened, the smoke smell from the engine filled the car and that wasn't fun. When we were done with the tunnels, it's the big open landscape with of course sheep and all and without the glass, it's actually really cold here. I guess that's why many people eventually left and I stayed to just absorb the view and the chilly air.

With the gray weather, the view got a bit misty and the low lying clouds in the mountains made for a sentimental mood :P

I went back to my seat when we were reaching Arthur Pass. You kinda can already see some little waterfalls as the train approached the station. When I arrived, there's a drizzle. After being pointed the way to the Arthur Pass village, I made my way there and the first place I saw was the visitor center and that's where I went. It's warm in there. My obsessive googling kinda already let me know about what Arthur Pass has to offer but I went to counter anyway and there was a girl manning it. I asked if it's gonna rain the whole day, she said yes for these 2 days, even snow perhaps she said. That would be something, I would welcome snow than rain because that would be new for me. I think I asked her more than once about the weather, perhaps simply because I hope her answer would change the weather. I asked about the paths and if they're all clearly marked, she said yes, but I could also buy the guide brochure. I didn't feel like doing so. After getting all the answers, I wasn't sure if I should go and walk around, especially since the visitor center is so warm. Outside is cold and raining. It's not a bad rain per se, but it's a constant drizzle. It's light that the rain drop didn't even make sound as they hit the ground, but it's constant! Then I saw the girl who was sitting behind me on the train walked out and I thought if she's doing this, I should too. I definitely felt inappropriately dressed, I had a thick coat but it's not waterproof and there's no hoodie. However that girl had even lighter clothing, she only had a sweatshirt with hoodie, but then she's also a redhead, so I thought she must be used to something like this from whereever she's from. As for me, I used my scarf to cover my head, muslim girl style.

First stop was the very nearby Avalanche Creek which is less than 5 minutes away. With more walk up, you can see the waterfall and it was pretty cool. After that, I decided to go see the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall. It took some walking to reach the start of the trail, where I wondered if I was being darn silly to do this. There weren't many people around. Then I saw the waterfall.

Saw the sign for the Devils Punchbowl trail and off I went. I didn't even think if I would make it there, I mean I didn't even know what I wanted to achieve, but I started walking. It's actually very very fun and a nice walk. I remember thinking this would be so great if the weather had been great. It wasn't all easy though because there were steps and that's where it got hard and where my heart beat faster. Of course like last year with the hike in Fushimi Inari, I went "oh God please help me" over and over. I also couldn't stop questioning myself. I wonder what if I faint, what if I fall and knock my head and die, what with the rocks and slippery condition in the rain, and I was pretty sure that there's no camera whatsoever watching the trail and I wondered how long I would be found and how silly that would be. I did see some people, but they're not alone and they're properly dressed. I think on my way there, I saw the redhead girl going back from this trail and it's kinda nice to see her and I guess that kinda fueled me to just do this, since she's doing it too. I finally reached the viewing platform for Devils Punchbowl and it was glorious. Glorious because I made it and also glorious because it just is. It also made me think about how last year I just saw the waterfall in Nikko from afar and so this time I felt like it's a bit of payback from last year. The whole trip felt like that because I saw more than one waterfall. I took some pictures, but then because it's all so wet, the result wasn't good. After some time admiring it, I thought I should really go back.

Upon reaching the beginning of the trail, I saw the direction for the Arthur's Pass Walking Track. Since I had so much time, I thought I should go do this. This trail felt a bit different. The trees and all are covered with moss. It's all very quiet because there wasn't any sound, which is perhaps a good thing. No sound of animal and I guess the best thing is that there's no leeches!!! That is truly a nightmare of tropical rain forest. I learnt later on it's because in New Zealand, it's a temperate climate so the rain forest is different. Seriously this is like so perfect to walk around in. I also learnt that generally there's no creepy insects or snakes in New Zealand's forests, which again is awesome. I did see a sign that dogs are not allowed in the trails because they could eat the kiwi bird. I didn't see any kiwi bird, I wonder if the rain caused whatever animals in there to take shelter unlike the silly humans, like me, who decided to walk around. Here, in fear that I would faint, not that I was feeling light headed or anything - I just didn't know my body well so just in case, I thought I should eat something. So I snacked on the anzac biscuit that I bought on the train. It's pretty big, but not the best biscuit there is. There were more steps and not many people to be seen. I think I saw one lady who smiled when I passed and then a guy with an umbrella, perhaps he's Japanese. So me still feeling silly, decided to go a step further in my sillyness and this is where I kinda talked to Jesus, like seriously opening my mouth and speaking and asking if He felt annoyed that like last year every time I do a strenuous activity, I would be calling Him, saying, "Please God help me, please God help me". There's no burning bushes as an answer, but then I finally heard a bird chirping and on the tree by the viewing platform for Bridal Fall, I saw a little green bird. Pretty much the only wildlife I saw. I made it nearer to the waterfall and again because it's so wet, my pictures didn't come up alright. Pretty much pictures that I have are of things like this, mountains shrouded in light cloud or mist and of creeks and waterfalls.

By the small bridge to see Bridal Fall, I decided that it's time to really go back. The rain wasn't easing and I don't know how much further before the end of the path and I don't know if I could do all the steps up and down and make it back. Every time there were steps going up, I told myself how good it would be when we go back (and yes, I become plural when I'm alone), but there's just so much psyching you can do to yourself. I think I said my goodbye and thank you to the waterfall for letting me see her. Seriously Arthur Pass is a wonderful place, it's just too bad the weather I was in was not encouraging. I would really want to explore more of this area in better weather. I think it should be so fun. For more pictures from the the TranzAlpine train ride and Arthur Pass, you can go here.

The village of Arthur Pass itself is rather small. Went to a restaurant for lunch, unfortunately they only had fish and chips, so I had that and hot chocolate. I had these 2 a lot during this trip and perhaps I am super strange, but no I don't like marshmallow in my hot chocolate. The sweetness that kicks in is just way too much for me. I ate pretty slowly and it's kinda nice in there because it's warm and I was positively wet, my hair was wet, the scarf was wet even though we both weren't dripping with water. I felt a bit shy about sticking around until my train arrived so I thought I just go and wait in the train station. Stupid me, in hindsight, I should have waited in the visitor center. When I arrived at the station, I was like 1 hour early. No one was there, so I sat down, plugged my ipod, and started writing. It was really cold. I wore the gloves that I brought but didn't wear until then (don't ask me why I do stupid things like this). Finished writing (I only have 1 side of an A4 paper), so I just played games in my phone. Then the redhead girl came, by this time I should have engaged her in conversation, but I didn't and she didn't either. She had an umbrella, but she looked so cold. I began to feel colder because of the long wait. Then more people came, they all older people and seemed to be in a group. The train was like 40 mins late, but glad when it finally arrived. Got my seating assignment from the train staff. Still got a front facing window seat. The redhead girl now sat in front of me. The train stopped on and off for around 20 minutes during the journey because of signalling problem as the conductor told us. A term that people in Singapore hear way too often.

We arrived back before 7 pm. Found the shuttle. The redhead girl was already there when I arrived. Found out it cost 10 NZD and I wondered if it's more expensive because I was alone since the driver this morning told me that it's around 15 NZD for 2 people and because of this I finally stroke a conversation with the girl. Asked her how far she walked - she made it further than me. Found out that she's an exchange student from Toronto and she's on a break, so she decided to go to Christchurch from Auckland where her university is. She admitted she was freezing and didn't expect to be that cold. Kinda nice to be talking to her. That was kinda my one conversation that day. We had to wait awhile before the shuttle was filled, but then we're off and I was the second to be dropped off. Reached my room before 07:30 pm and glad that I got to shower and be warm. With that, that's basically the end of my South Island journey. I was heading to Auckland the next day. It's by no mean a perfect day, but I'm happy I survived it and it was actually a nice experience, one that I would really want to repeat in better situation :) So New Zealand leg 1 had been great, the second leg was great too. I'll try to write as soon as I can :)

:) eKa @ 7:48:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Kaikoura

The trip to Kaikoura was the only tour that I managed to book in Christchurch. Interested to do this because it involves whale watching. So that seems to be awesome. I was the first to be picked up and then just another block was this Thai lady, who's quite old, and she's travelling alone. She's a primary school teacher from Northern Thailand who's going to retire in 2 years time. She spoke quite a decent English and she was quite chatty, straight away engaging me in conversation. I was most impressed by her travelling alone! From conversation during lunch, I also found out she was staying in a hostel in that other block, in which she shared the room with other people, girls and boys! So she's not as high maintenance as me and I was just basically in awe of her. I asked her if there's a locker, but she said everyone just put their things in the room and the lockers are not free. I suppose there's really some sort of camaraderie among backpackers, but it's just not something that I can do. I think you have to be quite easy going, low maintenance, open, and social to be able to do this and I sadly have to say I am none of those. I wish I could be, but no, sorry. Anyway then it was an Indian family, mom and dad, and 2 young kids who live in Bangalore. Well when I saw them, I wondered if they do not live in India, so I gotta ask. I found out that we would be taking the same train the next day. Small group and I was thinking how I would really want a bigger group, just so I could just kinda disappear and not having to be social with this small group, but then I also realized I have to be grateful for these people because without whom again this tour would have been cancelled.

Anyway, so it was a drive up to Kaikoura. In the morning there was fog as we drove out of Christchurch which I thought was beautiful, unfortunately we cannot just stop and take pictures. I actually saw a dolphin jumped out during the drive through Goose Bay. Only one though and it happened really fast, but I thought it was pretty cool, kinda a good sign for the day. Upon reaching the whale tour place, I straight away took the motion sickness pill because I was afraid I would get seasick during the ride. That was a decision that kinda haunted me out upon knowing that we wouldn't get on the boat immediately. We had around 30 minutes plus before it's our turn and the boat ride would be like 2 hours plus. The pill should be taken half an hour before the journey and with me taking it earlier, I wonder if the effect would be gone when I was still in the boat. However there's nothing that I can do. I gave the other pill to the Thai lady because I had 1 left and she wasn't sure if she would be okay. It seemed she didn't take it because she wasn't feeling well in the boat. Anyway, I used our free time to take some pictures from the beach. I would consider the weather to be good though it was not that blue sky sunny type.

It was an empty beach with nothing really. I saw this group of white birds and I had some nice pictures of them. It annoys me greatly that I don't know what these birds are called. In general, if I don't know things, I get very annoyed with myself and since I cannot let it go, I googled my way into it. I think these are called red-billed gull. What do you think, am I correct?

So anyway, then it's time for the briefing where they give you the safety instruction. They also told us that the sea was a bit rough and if people are prone to motion sickness, they should sit in the back. The place actually sells motion sickness pill, so I don't know why people just didn't buy them. The sea was really rough, even I felt like my inside was tossed, but overall my motion sickness pill worked. It's weird that I get nervous with airplane turbulence when being tossed by waves actually had a bigger impact. Maybe because eventually you land on the water? It's weird, I should be more scared since I can't swim, so it's scary to fall into the ocean. Anyway, during the ride, people must stay inside the boat, and when the captain reached the place where they thought the whale was, we could get out. During this time, the captain used some kind of device which he put into the water to listen for the whale. I think if he could hear something, that means the whale was in the water, so if he couldn't listen to anything, that means the whale was nearby on the surface. Our first stop wasn't fruitful, so everyone went inside again. The boat made contacts with the other boat which left earlier and also with the planes above which were taking people whale watching through the air. It reached a point where there was a plane circling an area, and another plane came, and our boat sped through the location. It was madness. I felt like it's so inappropriate of us for chasing this whale. Anyway, when we reached this other location, I think it was our third stop, we were told that the whale had been in the surface for quite some time. I think they're in the surface for like 30-45 minutes and then they would go down for an hour or so, so our window for this whale was kinda small. We're told that the whale would be on our right, so off everyone went to the right of the boat. It was kinda easy for me to get out, because I was sitting somewhat on the front, and people were like feeling sick or old, so they moved slower than me. I am a really bad person in spotting something, for me everything was just like an infinite blue, but then I saw it. I saw a bit of its back and it's not like it's making a lot of splash so you could identify it easily, it was pretty calm, or perhaps I was just rather blind. Anyway, I spotted it and really before long, it dived down and so I only have very few pictures of its tail.

After that we actually tried to go to another location, following another tip off, but then we had to go back, so even though we stayed awhile there was nothing. We're told that we'll got a 40% refund because it seemed this trip wasn't a good one. That was good news for me, it was good enough for me to see something and to get some money back, it's awesome. I don't know how much this whale watching thing cost since I booked it from another tour as a day trip, but I got 45 NZD back, so for me all is good. I'm not sure what a good whale watching trip would be. They did say on average they see 1 - 2 whales. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll get to see the whale blow its hole. Either way, I wasn't that disappointed with this trip. I didn't get sea sick, in fact I kinda dozed off on the way back, which is weird because we were being tossed up and down. I think the med made me sleepy. Will I do this again? I don't think so. Again, I think it just feels like madness chasing the whales. If human celebrities who understand the reason why people are interested in them could be so pissed by reporters and paparazzi, can you imagine how these whales feel who perhaps are wondering why everyday they hear funny noises and get strange waves from the planes and boats. That being said, I have to say that I am that noble, that perhaps if I should do this again, I would try the plane. I guess that's perhaps the only way you can see the whole shape of the whale.

So anyway, after that was lunch. I was feeling hungry and because of the med I was not losing my appetite :) The Indian family was feeling sick, except for the dad, so I don't know what they did. The Thai lady decided to join me and that's when I found out more about her. Then it was a drive back. Our driver / guide, John, asked if we saw any seal. I actually saw one when the boat was moving, it was swimming and it was so cute. John said let's try to see some. Maybe because the weather was getting quite gray and cloudy, it wasn't easy to spot the seals, but he finally made a stop, where we saw quite a few. They're really just these blubbers lounging on the rocks, except for this one who actually made some movement :D Seriously though, they're pretty cute.

Last stop before Christchurch was a winery whose name I didn't take notice of. The rest of the people don't drink, so I was left alone to do the wine tasting. Awkward, but I thought be confident. The girl at the counter was pretty nice. The first I tried was a riesling, then a red wine, and another white. I forgot what the names were. I thought the whites were good, but I didn't quite enjoy the red. Since I'm not a drinker, my opinion doesn't carry any weight at all :D The girl said we could go outside if we want to see the vineyards. Me and the Thai lady went outside but didn't really go near the plants. This drive to Kaikoura was actually the only drive in New Zealand where I saw vineyards and it's always a nice thing to see vineyards, I guess I have a soft spot for them since my first ever visit in Tuscany. This is the first visit of any vineyard though to happen in autumn and the yellow leaves were nice.

We reached back not so late, and refund was waiting for me at YMCA, and I got to relax watching the latest episode of Survivor which I have been following. So overall, I thought it wasn't a bad day :) Not many pictures from this trip, but you can go here to see more.

:) eKa @ 9:20:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Lake Tekapo & The Smallest Plane I've Ever Been In

The next day was my trip to Lake Tekapo. I actually tried to book a day tour which would bring me to Mt. Cook but that got cancelled because I was the only one signing up for that, so sad right? Was really demoralized with the cancellation since that meant I needed to plan something else and do things on my own. Was even sadder when reading an Indonesian girl's blog which said that she took a helicopter ride from Mt. Cook that has snow landing. That was really cool. Unfortunately her trip is her own and my journey had to be different. The most reasonable plan was to go to Lake Tekapo because if I made it all the way to Mt. Cook, I wouldn't have much time to explore before having to go back and I wouldn't get to explore Lake Tekapo. Upon googling for Lake Tekapo, I found out that there's Air Safari which with its small planes can take you high up to see Mt.Cook, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, and Fox Glacier and pretty much many other things that I couldn't remember. On a whim, I emailed Air Safari and asked if it would be possible for me to take the flight. While they responded kindly, they also said that they needed 4 people for the flight to go and I was alone and there's no booking at that time yet. Suffice to say that didn't boost morale, however they said just come, maybe there's something and they also checked the weather for me and advised which date would be better. Since I have nothing else better, I could only hope for the best that it will work out. There's also a helicopter company from Lake Tekapo that does pretty much the same thing but since it's a helicopter, it has snow landing. However since I was already demoralized, I didn't feel like emailing this helicopter company and also since it's more expensive with shorter duration, I thought maybe this was just one of those things that I have to let go. I was pretty positively sure that I would be so unlucky, that I wouldn't get to fly, and that the trip there wouldn't be great at all. It turned out to be one of the best day that I had in New Zealand.

To get to Lake Tekapo, I decided to use Atomic Shuttle since its departure point was just at the Canterbury Museum which is practically less than 5 minutes walk from YMCA, so no chance for me to get lost. By the way, I have been finding places easy enough, has my directional skill improved or Christchurch and Auckland are pretty easy? Anyway the shuttle is a small van instead of a bus, perhaps because there's not many people. We departed at 07:15 am. Managed to get window seat. Arrived at 10:30 am something and straight away I saw the Air Safari office. The helicopter company was just next door actually, but then I thought since Air Safari had responded to me nicely, I should just go to them. It turned out there were other people booking the flight that day and I could go for the 11 am flight. I basically just managed to go to the toilet before one of the pilots drove me and another guy to the hangar. I think they made a plane which was almost going to take off wait for us. It cost 340 NZD for a 50-minute flight, but I think it didn't fly that long. So pretty fast, I was in the air. The plane was really small, there were seats for 8 people exactly. There's the pilot, then there were 2 french speaking guys, the guy I was with, and a family, mother and father with their young son and toddler daughter. I was seated at the back with the mom who had the daughter in her lap. Well it's a mystery what could grab a little kid's attention, with the view outside, the little girl seemed to be more interested to see me. The flight was really bad for me actually because I had motion sickness and I am not sure why. Was it because it was too rushed for me, getting off a bus ride and straight away I went to fly? Or because the plane was small and I sat at the back? There's also turbulence and that didn't help. This brought back to mind lesson learnt from the trip to Provence and Capri, when the sky is blue without a speck of clouds that means the wind is strong in the area. They say when you are having motion sickness, try to focus on the horizon, but when the horizon is not in sight or when it's not in a straight line, it got really hard :( I was trying so hard not to puke and asked God to help me. Found one candy from Changi Airport in my bag and took that to help me from being sick. Overall I survived it and was happy to get down even though I think we flew less than the 50-minute duration. The view was awesome though and so it's quite a shame that I was feeling sick. As I was sorting through the pictures, I realized how awesome it really was, it's mind blowing, and it's an awesome experience. First we flew over Lake Tekapo with its blue water which comes from the glacial ice.

Then there's snow capped mountains and glacier. The pilot was giving description of each places we passed, but I was not processing any of it because I was focusing on not puking. Yes, it's quite a shame.

I also felt like I experienced a National Geographic or BBC documentary moments when I saw landscapes like below.

I was really happy when we finally landed, maybe the little girl too because towards the end she was not feeling all too good and she kinda kicked me too. Her mom said her ears might have hurt. I wonder if anyone else felt sick or all played it cool like how I tried to be :P Here you can see how small the plane is.

Upon finishing, the pilot drove me and the other guy back to village center. I asked the pilot what fuel they put into the planes because I saw a pump like what you use for cars. He said similar gas but with higher octane or something like that and that it's more expensive than normal gas (obviously). Perhaps this is the kinda gas they illegally use for drag racing as mentioned in Hollywood movies? So basically, to fuel the planes, they also pump gas the way they would a car :D

Back at the village, I still had some hours to spend at the lake. I love the village center because though it's small, it actually has all the necessary things like a supermarket, restaurants, and cafes. I proceeded to the bakery / cafe. Decided to get cream cheese bagel (side note: all the things they had seemed to be really nice). The place was manned by Korean ladies which perhaps are immigrants. One of the lady asked if I wanted it to be toasted and I said yes even though I wasn't planning to eat it right away. They nicely packed it with a little paper plate in the bag. I went to go by the lake and found an empty bench and since the bagel was warm, I decided to eat it. I was still trying to shake off the motion sickness and perhaps it's not a good idea to eat straight away but it was warm! That turned to be my best bagel experience. I did find myself eating really slow though, slower than I usually eat. It was like a beautiful epitome of travelling alone, you sit on a bench alone, near a tree, eating nice food, the weather was great, and seeing a beautiful view in front of you. This is what I saw.

As you can see there's a beautiful blue sky. The weather was really really great. The lake was beautiful and that small little house on the right is the Church of the Good Shepherd. I sat there for awhile, breathing, feeling it's such a beautiful day. As you can see that Church is like across the water on the other side of me, so when I was ready to move, I made my way to it. It was quite a longer walk than I expected. On the way there, a lady walking from the opposite direction with her husband said something like, hey it's you, you're alone ah? I was like, what?!? Then I realized they were in the shuttle with me that morning and turned out they also stayed in YMCA. They're a couple from Malaysia who are retirees though they still look young and they're travelling for around a month to explore Australia and New Zealand. We had quite a chat by what appeared to me as an apple tree. Stupid me didn't feel like picking the red apple I saw. Anyways, they were really chatty and it was nice talking about our trips, sharing a bit of stories and of course since I haven't talked to many people, I became more social than usual :P They were going to spend the night there, which is perhaps an excellent idea because after finding out more about Lake Tekapo, it seems that this is a good place to see the night sky because there will be many stars. I have seen pictures of the Church of the Good Shepherd at night with the many stars and it's beautiful! There's also Mount John Observatory nearby where you can do some serious star gazing.

So anyway, arrived at the church, but there were many people there and at its shore. I think you can go in the church, but it was so seriously small that I didn't feel like going through the crowd to go inside. I went to the shore, saw the brilliant clear water. It wasn't exceptionally cold. In fact I saw some people swimming in the lake. The shore is very rocky though and I always feel like I am the type of person who will just fall and break something. See I have very little confidence in my ability to do things correctly and I always have these thoughts that I'm just gonna slip and fall and do something stupid and hurt myself. I don't know why I keep on feeling this way when I have managed to do many things successfully on my own and I haven't fallen and hurt myself so bad. Of course when things like that happened like when I fell from the stairs and bruised myself bad (I was reminded of that as I wrote these lines), I went, of course this happens to you, you're the unlucky one. Hopefully with me writing this, no bad things will come my way, knock on wood. So anyway, there are many balanced rock sculptures / structures on this shore, some people got really creative. While they're not exceptionally mindblowing, it's still not an easy thing to do, I tried and I couldn't get it to be tall. Mine is like perhaps only 3 - 4 levels of rocks. I guess you really need the patience.

After I had enough, I decided to go back to the other side. Walked back from a different path now and I couldn't even figure out how that happpened, why couldn't I go back the same way I came? Anyway got into the other side of the road and that's where I saw what I believe is a dam that dams this lake (can a dam be a verb too?). That was quite interesting to see. Anyways, the other side of the lake has a bigger shore and less people and I just spent the time exploring it, still as rocky, but it was nice :)

There were not many trees, but the ones which were there have these glorious bright yellow leaves.

There were also some last blooming lupins and I ran my hand through one of them and said something like, "Hello beautiful, thank you for meeting me here".

I do that when I am alone and haven't spoken much, I begin to speak aloud to no one in particular or to things. I even spoke aloud to Jesus in Arthur Pass (that's another story). Other than the grass, a few lupins, there were also berries. I am always intriqued by this. Too bad I couldn't know if they're poisonous or not.

I stayed until around 3 pm, that's when the bus would take me back. Decided to take the InterCity bus this time around because it will arrive back in Christchurch at 7 pm something, not as late as the Atomic Shuttle which will arrive back around 10 pm even though it's stopping right back at the Canterburry museum. Found the meeting point for the bus, but wasn't sure if it's correct until I saw another Asian couple from the shuttle earlier that morning and another guy waiting. The bus was running late, but I felt better because there were these people and I also asked the guy if he's waiting for the same bus which he did. The bus finally arrived and it's the GreatSights bus coming in from Queenstown. The GreatSights bus are buses which is also like a tour because it drops you at these attraction places. In fact, just after they were dropping passengers in Lake Tekapo and picking us up, they made a stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which of course for me was redundant. I was barely sitting down and we made a stop, but at least then I could see the statue of the dog. I read about this but totally forgot about it, so it's a good thing that God made sure I didn't miss it.

By that time there's a wedding in the church, so the church was closed. Didn't know it's popular to have wedding there. It's very small so I'm not sure how many guests they can fit in, doesn't seem practical for a big family. Anyway the bus didn't make any more touristy stop, but it did stop for tea break and that's where I met 2 Indonesian couples from Surabaya. I was so happy!!! Always happy meeting Indonesians, nice Indonesians. They were in-laws, maybe 5-10 years younger than my parents or perhaps same age. At first I saw the wives and they were quiet that I thought they were Japanese but when I heard they said something in Indonesian, I straight away came up to them to talk. They were pretty nice. They introduced me to one of the husbands, the other one was somewhere else at the time and the Om (= uncle) was very nice and we chatted a lot. I am glad they are nice. They're pretty awesome to be doing this trip on their own and they're including Australia too. You know in retrospect, I should perhaps have done what they did, taking the GreatSights bus either from Christchurch to Queenstown or the other way around and then make my way to Auckland. I should have researched harder when I only had 2 cities as bases for this trip, when usually I stayed in at least 3 cities. If I had made it to Queenstown, I could have gone to Milford Sound. However, it's not easy planning a trip and this was as best as my brain and heart could muster and also because the budget increased pretty quickly, I was thinking I should be more acceptance with a shorter trip. Anyway, the Om filled me in about their trip, they did a reverse of what I do, starting in Auckland and ending in Christchurch. He talked about the tour they took in Auckland and the one I was going to take too and they had a good time there, so I was feeling happy for them and me :P He even came by my seat in the middle of the trip to talk more and I was impressed that he knows how to google. They're leaving Christchurch in the evening next day, so they're not planning to do much in Christchurch. He said they would most probably just explore Re:START mall which I told him has nothing much. I told him about the Botanic gardens and that it's free and recommended them to go there, not sure if they really did. Anyways, I was so glad to be able to meet them and have good conversation in Indonesian. Then the bus apparently could drop us in our hotels, that's so awesome because I was kinda worried if I could navigate myself from the station to YMCA in the dark. I was the second one to be dropped and I loved how they're sounding like parents when we said our farewells. I really had a great day, so score score score and high five all around. I thank God really, it was truly one the best days I had in New Zealand and my days there actually had been pretty great :) For pictures from this trip, you can go here. The pictures from the flight were really great that I didn't even enhance their colors.

:) eKa @ 10:07:00 PM • 0 comments

New Zealand - Christchurch

Hello guys, I am back, so be prepared and bear with the next few posts which will be about the trip. Not that you will be interested to read it or perhaps you will be interested to read it as compared to my usual mundane writings. Anyway, let's go to the story.

So I left Wednesday evening, April 23th. I chose to take Qantas because Singapore Airlines with its direct flight cost like S$500 more which is more than enough to pay for my hotel in Auckland, so I guess I'd have to make do with longer journey and transiting in Sydney. The flight left around 8 pm and you have to be in the airport like 2 hours before and I have to say I am one person who doesn't really observe this. Most of the time, I make my way to the airport 2 hours before the flight. Anyway, that Wednesday afternoon in my side of Singapore, it started raining with thunder and all and so I began to be worried, like do I have to stand by the road in the rain trying to flag for a taxi. So I decided to call for taxi and let me tell you something, there are some things in this efficient Singapore which is not that easy to get done and to have it, it's like getting a miracle. Calling for a taxi is something like that. You will be put on hold forever or just be told that no one is available to speak to you. I tried all the numbers there are and some more than once. A miracle, I got through to one person. It turns out that if you want the taxi to come like 15 minutes later, it's called an advance booking and you have to pay more. Redonkulous! But what can I do, I needed a taxi and so I said fine. The person said okay, you can hang up now and you'll get an sms about the taxi. The sms came and it told me that there's no taxi available and try again in 10 minutes. WHAT THE F**K?!?! I told you it's like getting a miracle trying to call a taxi here. So I had no choice, I scrambled to finish up my laundry and packed my luggage because I foresaw that I needed to wait some time before a taxi came my way and the street I am in is not that busy. Got my hoodie up and went to the street and started to flag frantically. It came to me that this happens to me quite often, having to go to Changi airport and having to wait in the drizzling rain with my luggage. I was like please please God help me over and over. There were taxis but they were taken and somehow the empty one going on the opposite direction didn't want to make a u-turn to get me even though I was waving like crazy. That was until a taxi uncle in the opposite direction rolled down his window and asked where I was heading and told me to wait for his u-turn. I felt like perhaps he felt sorry for me standing in the rain like that. So yeah, this one paragraph is to say that I finally managed to get a taxi and I didn't wait that long, like 10-15 minutes or so and I really thank God for this.

Got into the airport, chose aisle seat for the first flight to Sydney and window seat for the flight from Sydney to Christchurch, my first destination in New Zealand. Had lontong for dinner in the airport and called mom in the cactus garden since I didn't have time to call home before because of the scrambling. The moral was still low that I remember me telling myself not to cry after calling mom. It's not an emotion one should be having when they are going for a vacation, but I don't know, perhaps it's pms but I was just so moody and felt like seriously and honestly that I kinda didn't want to do this at all. Why I am leaving for this trip? It's a stupid feeling to have but I felt like it has become a chore, like some sort of work to be done to make my life be more fulfilling. Are you surprised to be hearing all this from me? I really think it's the pms speaking and the fatigue and the rain and everything not going perfect. In the plane, I got the side block and it's a smaller plane that there were just 2 seats at the side. There's another lady sitting next to me and she's really really tall that I felt kinda sorry for her to have to compact her body in her seat. That long flight didn't help to lift my mood, again I was questioning myself, all I wanted was just a bed where I can really sleep, I also wanted to just be away from everyone which is perhaps somewhat a good feeling to have since I would be going to a place where I know no one, but still the mood wasn't lifted. Movies I watched was Casse-tête Chinois or Chinese Puzzle which I realized was a sequel of L'Auberge Espagnole which after googling I realized it's the 3rd of a trilogy, I didn't watch the second one. Anyway in that movie, the main character, got divorced at the age of 40 something and had to move to New York to be nearer to his kids and he said it's so depressing to be reaching that age and to have everything fall apart and I realized that is so true. It's depressing for me to be 32 and being absolutely single with no end in sights, but I think if you already have all that, the husband and the kids and find out that 10 years down the road, it's all blown up to pieces, it is perhaps even more depressing. Anyway, I also watched some episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine which I thought is not really that funny that I managed to drift in and out until suddenly a thought came, did you bring the key to your luggage? Wow that shocked me a lot, that I was fully awake and started rummaging my bag. I didn't find it immediately so I started to panic, but then I found it. I'm not sure if I really put it in there or God just magically put it in for me. I like to think the second one, because I was so in a hurry when I left that I didn't know what I was doing.

So anyway, arrived in Sydney, the direction for transfer was clearly marked, so found that easy enough. Experienced a new thing in airport security, which was to be wanded for residue of explosive. Okay ... I mean what else can I say, maybe threats could come from people who looked like me who look so incapable of doing things :P Now that I have spent many hours in Sydney airport, I can say that its international terminal is divided into 2 wings and my next flight was at the other wing. So I made my way there. This time, the transit time is around 3 hours. Found a seat and started reading Everything Is Illuminated. This is the first trip of mine in which I brought a book, all because I knew I had many hours to kill in transit. The next flight to Christchurch was by Emirates and I love it, I think Emirates never fails to be good and of course there's more space in the seats. It's very confusing why shorter flight has better seating than longer flights, unless you're taking budget airline. Anyway do they just really want to pack as many people in the longer flight? Anyway with the window seat, I got to see Sydney, spotted the opera house and the harbor bridge and I thought it's quite an interesting city, it and its surroundings seem to have river all over running through them.

Anyways, arrived in Christchurch, found the super shuttle easy enough and was transported to YMCA Christchurch. My first time in a YMCA and chose this because I think it's quite strategic, very near to the botanic gardens. Decided to choose a room with 2 single beds even though I was alone because the room with 1 bigger bed cost more. So as Casryn told me, just use the other bed for putting things and such. Well, I used that to watch the tv and moved to the other bed to sleep because the first bed has a mirror facing it. Anyway, while YMCA Christchurch is nicely located, I thought its housekeeping did a poor job in cleaning the room, so I dislike them for this. I know I should be more easy going about this. I reached the room at around 3:30 pm and though I was tired, I forced myself to get on with the plan, which was to go see the Cardboard Cathedral. There are not many tall buildings in Christchurch, I wonder if it's all because of the earthquake or it's always like that. There are construction everywhere and what I thought was pretty cool was the many graffiti art around city.

Didn't get lost and found the Cathedral based on the direction from google map. It's small and it's not very cardboard-y and I was feeling uneasy about entering, but I did enter and then I felt uneasy about taking pictures that I asked one of the lady there if I could. She said I absolutely may. Still felt uneasy about doing that, that I didn't stay long.

Then off I went to Re:START mall trying to find if I can buy some water and snack and no I didn't find any place which sells that. It's one of the frustrating thing about Christchurch I guess and I guess also as someone who live and grow up in Asia and in a city, we're just so used to of getting things easily. Like back home in Jakarta, my house is less than 5 minutes walking distance from a convenience store and here in Singapore, I'm just 7 - 10 minutes walk from an adequate mall. In Christchurch, there's none of those. There isn't any convenience store like everywhere. I was getting disappointed. There's a cafe coffee shop at YMCA and even that closes at 5 pm! Another thing an Asian like me will find very hard to get used to. So even though I wasn't hungry, I decided to go eat something at the restaurant at YMCA in the hope that I could buy some water there. Settled on the minestrone soup which has quite a filling serving and bought 2 bottles of sparkling water and then I decided to end the day.

I was so tired and I think I slept at around 8 pm only to be awoken at 2 am. See this trip is really a trip where everything is out of my control. I debated if I should write this down, but since it's part and parcel of being a girl, I guess I just let it all out. So awoken at 2 am because of tummy ache because I had my period. I tried my best to get it to come on time and I failed and it decided to come along with me on the trip :( I was in pain that I decided to just take the med. It took some time, but it finally eased out and I managed to go back to sleep and was shocked when I was awoken by my phone's alarm which I set to 8 am. I was surprised that I managed to sleep that long. So anyway got ready, decided to have pancake for breakfast at the coffee shop downstairs and bought a bottle of water. Water would be my one gripe in Christchurch, I found myself having to always plan to buy them when I can find them and make sure I have enough water, but really for me who drink a lot of water, it's the most essential thing that I look for when I am settled in a new place and no, I'm not keen on drinking tap water.

Anyway, proceeded to the Botanic Gardens where i-SITE is and decided to book the train ticket for my day trip to Arthur Pass, I'll talk more about this train tickets and all when I write the Arthur Pass post. Knowing that there's nothing much in Christchurch, I also bought the gondola ticket from i-SITE and got a map and direction on where to take a bus to get there. First stop was the Botanic Gardens which was free. It was a rather chilly morning and it's cloudy with grey sky :( It was somewhat interesting. There were many Chinese tourists having fun taking pictures with the yellow fallen leaves. They really put much effort in posing.

Found the rose garden section, but the roses weren't really blooming. It's autumn after all, so not many blooming things around?

Also found the water garden and other areas which I thought was pretty nice. Made my way to the other side to the Heritage Rose Garden and this is where it started drizzling :( So I made my way to the visitor center where there's shelter. Used the toilet, took some time with my period and all, but by the time I got out, the rain cleared up and there's actually some blue sky. So that was kinda swell. Decided to go around again, making use of the blue sky and there's some nice view.

Ended up walking by the river and saw the nice trees and people doing punting at the Avon river, which means that they're taking a ride in a gondola like boat. The Christchurch gondola on the other hand is a cable car going up a hill. You must be wondering just like me why they call these things like that.

So after exploring all the way back to the front gate, I decided it's time to go do the gondola. I read that there's a shuttle bus taking people to the gondola base departing from the front of the Canterbury Museum which is located next to the gardens. I waited but none came, so I decided to concede and follow the instruction of the staff in i-SITE to take the bus. Found the bus terminal without getting lost. I was told that it cost $3.50 and I can take the bus back for free if it's within 2 hours. Arrived in the Gondola base and the staff was pretty nice, they didn't shove as many people in the gondola, if you're alone, you get a gondola for yourself and so I got my own gondola.

There's actually sheep and all grazing on the hill there. Not surprising? Arriving on top, you can see the town Lyttelton and the island across from it is pretty cool and interesting.

At some points, it got really windy and I took some pictures of the grass being blown around but none of it were any good :( When it got really windy, I decided to just go in. They also have a time tunnel ride, which basically you are seated in a slow moving cart and go through a small exhibition area where you are presented with the history of Canterbury‎. It's interesting, but I just didn't love the long wait. After that, I decided to head back. Waited for the bus and it took some time and I realized that my 2-hour window has passed. I was ready to pay again, but when the bus came and the lady driver saw I was holding my ticket, she said she let me have the free transfer because she came late. Yeah, so happy, score!

I arrived back in the city rather late, well not late, but for a city where things close at 5 pm, you feel like 4 pm is late. Not wanting to have dinner in the same restaurant as before, I thought maybe I should try the cafe at the museum, but it seemed to be closed when I finally arrived, sigh. So I used what remaining time I had to explore as much of the museum as I can before it closed. It's free by the way. It's quite an interesting museum, they have historical section, natural life section, a bit of science, a bit of religion, Maori art, so a bit of this and that. They have a mummy and that made me think of my dad. This picture below is from a display of how the first settlers lived.

In the end, I decided to have dinner in the same restaurant as the day before. On my way leaving the museum, an older guy happened to walk next to me and started to remark that it's a beautiful day that day. This was like the same way I started a conversation with the Monsieur in Paris. Anyway, I said yep but it rained in the morning in which he didn't notice. He asked me where I was from and upon knowing I am Indonesian, he said he didn't seem to know anyone from Indonesia. Then he said, the capital city is Kuala Lumpur, right? Aaarrrghhhh, no, and so I had to correct him. I find it fascinating, New Zealand's nearest neighbour is Australia and Australia's biggest nearest neighbour is Indonesia, so I thought by proxy New Zealand would know more about Indonesia. I guess they're just contented to be in their own happy peaceful world. Anyway, that conversation with the man made me feel happy because though it was short, that was my one conversation of the day and I did really feel that God provide for me :)

For dinner, I chose the seafood curry which had rice in it and no I didn't choose it because of the rice, but because I didn't feel like eating red meat. The curry was quite good, but the more I ate it the more I thought it's so unlike the curry Asian knows. There's no spiciness in it and while the gravy was smooth, I wondered if they achieved it by milk rather than coconut milk. Anyways, it just made me think that it's a westerner's type of curry :P One of the waiter had Malaysian parents and he said terima kasih to me :) So that's pretty much my day. The period did trouble me in the morning, but it went alright the rest of the day. I ended the day early too and enjoyed New Zealand tv which is actually not bad. I am most intrigued by the fact that their channel 1, 2, and 3 have a twin in channel 6, 7, 8, which showed exactly the same things but just 1 hour later. So if you really like something, you can watch it again in 1 hour time. Alright, this first post have been long, so I will end here. For pictures of Christchurch, please go here.

:) eKa @ 7:40:00 PM • 0 comments