Tuesday, August 31, 2010

3 Years + 1 Month + 1 Day

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  1. Reunited after more than 600 days on August 17, 2010. 605 days to be exact. 
  2. It is a long, long period of time. Even longer than the movie (500) Days Of Summer. 
  3. The last meal we had at KLIA in January 2008 was at Subway. The first meal we had upon my arrival in Christchurch was also at Subway. (edited: Subway KLIA was before we went up to Genting.)
  4. But nothing beats the frequency of visiting Secret Recipe for your birthdays. 
  5. So, we finally had a "proper" traveling together for the first time, and it was in such beautiful land of New Zealand. 
  6. Taking turns driving around the South Island was great. Making sheepie "baaa..." sound along the way sound excites me, 'coz it annoys you. 
  7. Having someone to feed me snacks while driving made sure my stomach didn't perform orchestra along the journey. 
  8. Getting complains from you for me being a "bodoh sial punya pemandu" happens everyday. It was like a routine. 
  9. "Parking pun tak tau parking betul-betul! Sepet sana sini!" But do you still remember who hit the pole while gostan-ing on that frosty morning at Shotover Lodge? 
  10. "Bodoh sial" term was first created during the jumping shot session at Hokitika beach. You accused me of not knowing how to jump properly.
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  12. But actually, it was you who couldn't even take a nice shot even though I've jumped so hard, until I looked like a katak already. 
  13. I forgot to say that to you that day, so I'm gonna say it now; "Bodoh sial punya tukang gambar"
  14. However, I think you can call me "Bodoh sial punya tukang catat nota" in return.
  15. That's because I saw that I wrote "Queensland", instead of "Queenstown" inside your flowery buku tiga lima, and you've corrected it to be "Queenslandtown!!". 
  16. Perhaps I should ask for something for I managed to stay awake and not fall asleep during the movie at Te Anau. That is quite a personal achievement for me, you know? 
  17. It was fun to play board games at Lake Tekapo that night, 'coz you never seem to be able to beat me. The score now stands at two-nil. Fancy another game? UNO, perhaps? 
  18. Love the fact that we use the "rock-finger-scissor game" to decide who will do the dishes after every meal. 
  19. Even better when I taught you the Japanese version, and I created my own rules to make sure that I win every time.
  20. How silly of us to have a misunderstanding and not to talk for more than an hour in the car. 
  21. The reason for you not stopping for me at Gore Lincoln to take picture with some horse statues. 
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  23. In the end, I still needed you to navigate me when we arrived at Dunedin, 'coz I think I was quite lost then. 
  24. Maybe I shall call you "Pandai punya tukang baca peta" for your great navigating skills. 
  25. I am now blogging from you bed. Your friends are all around me. Calbit the lion looks kinda sleepy, as usual. 
  26. While you must be busy sitting in the dark radiology room, analysing the X-rays. DO NOT FALL ASLEEP IN THERE! 
  27. Alright, I am hungry now. Time for breakfast.
  28. Sorry for the abrupt end to this entry. I know, it's a bit potong stim.
  29. Three years, one month, and one day, which totals up to 1128 days. 
  30. I hope and believe, there will be more happy days to come from here. 
  31. Happy "3rd Anniversary", "Plus 1 Month and 1 Day" 
  32. Anyway, today's August 31st; so I would like to wish "Happy Merdeka Day" to all Malaysians. Be proud that we are born in the best place in the universe!
  33. Wow! What a romantic and patriotic entry this has been.

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    NZ Day 11 - Lake Tekapo

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    The spherical Moeraki boulders lying in a stretch along Koekohe Beach, overseeing the South Pacific Ocean.

    • The night at Angela's place was great! But that's not the end, because there was  more - the wonderful breakfast, to come. Canceled the plan to watch sunrise at Taiaroa Head at the end of the Otago Peninsula as the sunrise time was too early for us. Besides, the drive there from Dunedin would take about one hour in the dark. 
    • Woke up a little later than usual, packed our stuff and was treated to a sumptuous breakfast by Angela. There were several meals on the menu, I chose Baldwin Street, and Mich went for Chingford Park, which is named after a park nearby. 
    • The main meal, which came with fruit juice, tea, coffee, toast and homemade jam were just superb; one of the best breakfast I've tasted for a long, long time. Angela would check and ask us to make sure everything's fine every few minutes, especially when we went quiet during the breakfast. Besides, she is not reluctant to share stories on certain parts of the house and the antique furniture, how she turned it from a students' hostel to a private motel. 
    • The warm hospitality by our host is no doubt one of the most memorable memories we had during our trip. If there is another chance, we would certainly return to this place again. Bid farewell to Angela and stopped at Chingford Park to see a magnificent wooden building which was used as a stable to house six black Arabian horses some time ago. 
    • During our walk at the park, cam across a Kiwi guy, who was taking his cute little dog for a morning walk. The moment Mich saw that dog, she stopped and didn't move an inch for the next few minutes lol! Yes, she is damn scared of dogs.
    • The journey from Dunedin to Lake Tekapo would take more than five hours, but we plan to stop at several places along the way. First stop was at Shag's Point to see the fur seals and a small colony of yellow-eye penguins. They usually come up to bask on the rocks. Managed to spot a few seals but felt that it wasn't enough. 
    • So, walked to another corner to get a closer view of them. Mich had warned me not to go down, but I insisted. The consequences - I received a big ang pow haha! I turned a Humpty Dumpty while walking on the slippery rocks! Damn pain alright, but somebody still found it funny and laughed non-stop =.= 
    • People fell down still can laugh; imagine you going to the doctor and instead of treating you, that doctor laughed at you and said, "Haha, padan muka! Still don't wanna listen to people-lah". Damn sad case, right? Anyway, no major injuries, just some broken heart, that's all. And my jeans got some green pattern from the moss haha!
    • The next stop was at the Moeraki Boulders to look at dinosaur eggs. I believed it for a while when Mich told me those are dinosaur eggs haha! They are actually some unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of beach, formed millions of years ago. 
    • Mich was doing the driving for first half of the journey for the day. While trying to overtake a car, I asked Mich to overtake a second car in front by telling her, "Yeah, ta pao that front car sekali". She only found that funny, as she laughed out of nowhere only after a couple of minutes =.= 
    • The third stop of the day was at Oamaru, an old town, which has buildings from the Victorian century. Most of the buildings in this town are very well-preserved and spending some time here made us feel as if we had travelled back to the 19th century. 
    • Wanted to stop at the penguin viewing area to see the blue penguins, but too bad they only usually come to shore in late evening. Dropped by Harbour Street Bakery, as recommended by Angela. Had freshly baked carrot muffin, Danish pastry, and mutton plum pie, plus a bottle of ginger beer, which were really good. Sat outside under warm sun to have our lunch.
    • A short stroll along the street took us into a few shops. It was wonderful to see how each shop was beautifully decorated with antiques decos that give them a unique look. If you think Malacca and Penang is old enough, wait until you see this town.
    • Took over the driving from Mich at Timaru. She spotted a helicopter carrying a box, and asked me to take a look. She made a random hypothesis by telling me that they are relocating the sheep to new farms haha! Obviously, it was just a box, which we didn't know what's inside.
    • Arrived at Tekapo by half past four. Stopped a while at the lake to have some pictures, before checking in at Tailor-Made-Backpackers Tekapo. The girl at the reception counter has been to Malacca, Cameron Highlands and Georgetown and she loves the weather and food a lot! 
    • Went to get some bread and milk for the breakfast the next morning. Saw a guy, who looked like a Japanese, at the supermarket buying more than a dozen of avocados. We made a guess that he could be one of the staff from the nearby Japanese restaurant. And Mich started to say that he's cute.
    • Had our dinner at Kohan, a popular Japanese restaurant in the town. Mich has been talking about this restaurant since I arrived, so it was something like a dream-come-true for her to dine in this restaurant. And she was even more happy to see that avocado boy in the kitchen haha!
    • The experience dining in a Japanese restaurant outside Japan was certainly a new thing to me, and funny at the same time, for all the stupid stuff we both did there haha! We both planned to act as a Japanese couple, but too bad Mich was speaking English all the time; so in the end, our mission failed! 
    • After coming a few times to our table to serve the food, one of the waitress began talking to us. She had to switch her language mode whenever she talked to either of us haha! One of the kitchen staff was already preparing to serve our dessert, but we made a last minute addition of chicken teriyaki, and they quickly signaled that staff to postpone the dessert first. We heard them saying to that poor guy, "Stop!!!" haha! 
    • Drank plum sake but it wasn't really Mich's thing. So, I was made the rubbish bin to finish it up and she kept saying I was drunk, when I obviously wasn't drunk. But there were a few times I made a fool of myself in the restaurant lol!
    • Drove up to Mount John to view the stars, but too bad the place was closed. Anyway, Tekapo is well-known for its clear, dark skies. At the moment, an effort Is being made to make the sky over Lake Tekapo a "UNESCO World Heritage Park In The Night Sky". One fine example is that the lamp posts along the streets are designed to face downwards, to minimize light pollution.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    NZ Day 10 - Dunedin

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    Baldwin Street in Dunedin, the world's steepest street seen from the foot of the street.

    • Started our journey early as we tried to reach Dunedin by lunch time. Halfway through the journey, the two of us quarreled, and it was total silence in the car for the next hour or so. It was just over some silly small issue, which I was mainly to blame. 
    • Fortunately, made up once we reached Dunedin and we treated ourselves to brunch at Capers, who is well-known for its pancakes. The maple syrup tasted really good! 
    • Visited Baldwin Street, recognised by the Guinness World Book of Records as world's steepest street. At its maximum, the slope of Baldwin Street is approximately 1:2.86, that is equivalent to 19°,  or 35% grade. 
    • It was quite a hot day, so I chose not to run up the street but just walk up slowly. Mich, who had been there once, took the staircases on the roadside. Living up to its billing as the world's steepest street, it was quite hard to balance while standing at the street, especially for a giraffe like me. 
    • Got myself a certificate and a souvenir postcard right after conquering the street at the gift shop down the street. 
    • Drove to our accommodation place for the night at Bygone Era B&B, which was just several streets away. Lucky thing for us as the host just came back when we reached there, and we were given a warm welcome by Angela. 
    • Were given some briefings about the place and took out our stuff into the room. The house was beautifully decorated with a touch of elegance for a delightful stay. This place is by far the most luxurious place we stayed throughout our 11-day trip. A perfect way to end the trip. Angela offered us to a tea session, but we have had other plans to go around the town. 
    • Mich brought me to visit University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand. Her medical campus is in Christchurch, but she's gonna return to Dunedin again for the graduation at the end of this year. 
    • Fell in love with the university library; it is perhaps the loveliest library I've seen in my live. The size, the facilities, the atmosphere, everything seemed to be just too nice! 
    • Visited Otago Museum, just opposite the university as Mich wanted to see the giant squid on display. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate the squid inside the museum. Saw a few sheep though haha! 
    • Returned to get some rest, and Angela treated us to some tea and homemade cookies, which were really good! Spent some amount of time camwhoring around the house, with the antique furniture it has, while making sure we didn't look too jakun haha! 
    • Had dinner at Velvet burger and went around the town to have night photo shot session, although it was quite cold. Dunedin is the most southern point we went throughout the trip. Drove up to Signal Hill to get a magnificent view of the city at night and watch the twinkling stars in the sky. It was just simply breathtaking.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    NZ Day 9 - Milford Sound

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    Panorama of Milford Sound looking northwest. Mitre Peak (right background) rises 1,692 metres above the sound.

    • The plan of the day was to drive up north to Milford Sound, which would take us about two hours. It was a foggy morning, and there were frost on the grass and trees along the way. Saw cows grazing on the frosted grass, and Mich commented that it was like the cow was eating ice cream haha!
    • Spotted some sheep along the way, but later realised that they were not sheep but just white stones lol! Waved to a car that passed by during one of our stop.
    • Stopped at the entrance of Homer Tunnel to take some photos of the snowy mountain area. The interesting thing about this tunnel is that the tunnel walls remain unlined granite, and runs at approximately a 1:10 gradient down to the western portal. The car that I waved earlier made a stop there as well, and just before they leave the place, the two ladies waved to me haha!
    • Before reaching Milford Sound, wandered through a lush forest area that headed towards a deep chasm where fast, rushing water flowed through. There were also many ferns and unique rocks formations.
    • Arrived at Milford Sound at eleven in the morning and went to confirm our cruise we was gonna take. Just a quickie, Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, and has been judged the world's top travel destination in an international survey. It is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination.
    • Went to wait at the jetty a bit earlier than the boarding time, as we noticed most of the tourists were mostly Asians. We all know Asians are kinda kiasu, so if we don't get up onto the boat early, we might not get a good seat on the boat. When the gate was finally open, we were the first two people to board the boat. That shows how kiasu we were haha!
    • Milford Sound is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side. Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters. 
    • The boat toured the Sound, passing the deep water basin and then headed towards the Tasman Sea. The wind was blowing so strongly and it was so cold that my fingers turned numb. Couldn't even press the camera's shutter properly!
    • When we reached the halfway point of the cruise, we spotted wild dolphins! Friendly dolphins, which swam next to the boat and they got quite close to the boat. Mich was so excited to see those papa, mummy and baby dolphins. Also saw several beautiful waterfalls, and many "temporary waterfalls" that appear only when snow melts.
    • On the way back, saw some seals lying lazily on nearby rocks and wild birds diving for fish. Again, the wonders of off-peak New Zealand meant that the boat wasn't overly crowded and everything seemed very relaxed.
    • On our drive back to Te Anau, stopped at a lookout area and was greeted by a kea, a large species of parrot usually found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island. It hopped onto our front mirror and we didn't dare to get down from the car until it got down haha!
    • Made another couple of stops at the Mirror Lake and Eglington Valley view point, a valley filled with golden-coloured grass, giving this place a stunning piece of scenery. Mich wanted to stop at the valley and pose with the signboard as her consultant's name's Eglington haha!
    • Had nothing much to do for the evening, so drove to Lake Manapouri. Wanted to take the rowboat but it was closed already by the time we reached there. Just take a short walk along the shore and returned to Te Anau.
    • Had dinner and took some rest before hitting for bed, as it would be a long drive on the next day to Dunedin.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    NZ Day 8 - Te Anau

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    The herd of sheep that was spotted at one point along the road.

    • Breakfast was several pieces of pizza, the leftovers of the French cheese cake and some golden kiwi fruits. Found out that car had some frost on the front mirror. Spent some time to defrost it; otherwise, it would be almost impossible to drive with such condition.
    • Halfway through our drive from Queenstown to Te Anau, we were greeted by a huge herd of sheep. The sheep were left in the middle of the road and by our random estimation, there were more than a thousand of them! Mich said the sheep were running marathon lol!
    • Some of them looked clueless when they see vehicles driving slowly pass them. Some were doing their business - small and big business, while some where busy locating their lambs haha!
    • Arrived at the place we were gonna stay for the next two nights - red Tussock Motel, which is just opposite Lake Te Anau. Checked-in and took down our stuff like usual; we did the same thing every other day or two, that it has become almost a routine.
    • Went to check-out about the tour to see the glow worms inside Te Anau Glow Worms Cave. The next tour was at two; it was fifteen-minutes to two by the time we were there and we hadn't have our lunch yet.
    • Rushed to Subway nearby and got ourselves the pork rib sandwich and some cookies, before rushing back to the jetty we were gonna board the boat. Everyone was already on board and waiting for us, so we quickly find a parking at the nearest spot available.
    • Dropped Mich first for her to tell them we will be a bit late, while I went to look for parking. While getting down from the car, couldn't pull my car key out, and it took me another five minutes trying to take it out. Started to panic. Of all the time, why such thing had to happen at such rushing time? In the end, realised that the gear was still in the "drive mode", not the "parking mode"; hence the key was stuck =.=
    • Mich came back to check on me and both of us quickly ran to the jetty like Chicken Run, as we were already ten-minutes late. Damn paiseh lol!
    • The wind was quite strong during the cruise from the jetty to the cave, and it took us almost thirty minutes before we reached the cave on the Luminosa. Experience beautiful native bush and entered the caves through a crack in the rock. Walked through the cave passed the waterfall, down the corridor, and entered the vast 25-meter high Cathedral, and then drifting on a boat ina  quiet darkness. Saw the glow worms - faint blue lights on the cave walls and their sticking fishing lines. It was like watching the stars on a clear, dark sky. Simply magnificent.
    • Just before boarding the boat back, had a short conversation with an elderly couple from Perth. They've been to Thailand, but at least they know where's Malaysia. 
    • On our cruise back to the mainland, one lady approached us and asked us if we wanted to have a picture taken. We agreed and had her to take our photo. We knew she actually wanted us to help her to take her picture, but was reluctant to ask directly. As to return the favour, we offered to take a picture of her with her two kids.
    • Had dinner - white Basmati rice, Chinese cabbage and carrot soup with eggs, and roasted chicken with sweet chilly sauce. My first time eating rice after almost a week! How much I'd missed them.
    • Went for a movie at Fiordland Cinema. It was quite interesting for a small town like Te Anau to have a cinema. It shows an exclusive screening of a movie - Ata Whenua Shadowland, which showed the Fiordland World Heritage Status Wilderness that we would otherwise never see. 
    • The 32-minute long movie was mysterious, evocative, exhilarating and utterly spectacular, filmed across extremes of season, climate and terrain, it took us on an unforgettable journey through one of the most awe inspiring landscapes on earth produced by local producers and the movie was more like a documentary about the beauty of Fiordland.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    NZ Day 7 - Queenstown

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    The breathtaking view of Queenstown from the observatory deck.

    • Breakfast was garlic bread, chocolate muffins, yogurt, and kiwi fruits. Since I came here, I guess I have been eating kiwi fruits at least once a day lol!
    • The plan was to spend the day at Queenstown, and the first stop was to take the gondola up a hill. Jalur Gemilang was among the flags used to decorate the entrance, where we boarded our gondola. Perhaps they know Merdeka's coming soon.
    • Lucky as it was a clear and sunny day. The view of Queenstown was easily one of the most beautiful scenery I've even seen, not only in New Zealand, but any places that I've travelled. The good weather made it even better, that one has got to see it with their own eyes to get what I mean. It sent a rush of adrenaline; it still does while I'm typing this. 
    • Right after that, we took the luge, something like a go-cart thing, but it goes downhill. It was located just beside the observatory deck on top of the hill. Decided to go for two rides, because we were quite sure one ride will never be enough. 
    • There were two tracks, the scenic track and the adventurous track. For the first ride of the day, everyone is always required to take the scenic track first, to get used to the track and the luge. 
    • Halfway driving, I overtook Mich at a cornering and was so happy about that. Few turns after that, my stupid long legs obstructed me from breaking properly and was overtaken by Mich. While I was busy trying hard to chase her in front, tragedy struck! 
    • At one sharp turn, I lost my balance and turned turtle haha wtf! Just few seconds before knowing that I would overturn, I was saying something like, "Shit! I'm gonna roll down into Queenstown Bay!" haha! 
    • Waited for a few seconds to see if paramedic car would come to my aid, but it didn't. Good thing that no other drivers drove pass me; otherwise it would be such an embarrassment - to turn turtle in a track, which is suppose to be an simple one haha! 
    • Headed to the town and had lunch at Ferg Burger. The burger is a bit bigger than the usual ones we see normally, but it was really good. No wonder people said a visit to Queenstown would never be complete unless we taste that burger. 
    • Stopped at the Remarkables shopping area as Mich wanted to do some shopping. In the end, it was me who got myself a pair of shoes and a t-shirt. For once, I feel so nice to shop because it's so much easier to get a suitable size for my shoes. I don't have to tell them to get me the largest size, like I usually do in Japan, but just tell them any sizes I want. 
    • Drove up the mountain to the Remarkables Ski Resort. Stopped a few times along the way to take pictures. When we were almost there, it started to snow a little bit. That girl who hasn't experience snow before was so excited haha!
    • Only if I am a fan of winter sports; otherwise we would've gone for skiing here. The experience is definitely different from skiing in Japan; the breathtaking scenery, especially.
    • Returned to the town and visited Queenstown Botanical Garden. Ducks and little ducklings were swimming freely in the pond and there is a free Frisbee golf course for visitors at the garden. Didn't play the game, but just took a stroll around the garden.
    • Cooked our simple dinner - pasta and fried eggs with orange juice and took early rest as we would have a long drive on the next morning.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    NZ Day 6 - Arrowtown

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    Historic cottages during winter at Arrowtown, Otago. 

    • After a few days having to wake up early, we got to sleep until half past eight as we started our journey later than usual. Got ourselves prepared, had our simple breakfast - instant noodles, chocolate muffins, and half-boiled eggs, before leaving Wanaka for Queenstown. 
    • Stopped at Wanaka Lake to have some photos. The water was like any other lakes I've seen in New Zealand, crystal clear water. Had one Japanese girl to take our picture. I spoke English to her at first, when I asked her help to take our picture. However, when she returned our camera, I thanked her in Japanese, and she looked kinda surprised with a confused face as well haha! 
    • Planned to stop at Arrowtown, a small town located along the way from Wanaka to Queenstown. Just before reaching Arrowtown, realized that we took a much longer route that made us used up more time that our earlier estimation. 
    • However, the scenery along the SH6 highway was nothing but magnificent sceneries of mountain ranges. The landscape changes from bare forest to green fields to rocky slopes, every few hundred meters, which hardly made the journey boring. 
    • At one point, spotted a herd of sheep jumping across some rocky area. The amazing thing is that they were standing on the edges of some slopes, which was easily a few hundred meters high. I bet if we put our kambing from Malaysia on those slopes, they will roll down from the mountains straight away haha!
    • It started to rain when we reached Arrowtown, so we decided to have lunch first at Bonjour, a French restaurant, before exploring the town. 
    • One of the girls from the group, who shared the same table with us, asked the waitress a funny question; whether the chicken served in that restaurant is white chicken or brown chicken. Apparently, it has nothing to do with the feathers, but the texture of the chicken. Wondering if it even makes sense haha! 
    • Visited an old Chinese settlement, which was just a stone's throw from the town. The houses the Chinese built were so small and low; they looked more like houses suitable for dwarfs haha! 
    • Wanted to visit the site used for the Lord of the Rings movie, also located nearby the town. However, we couldn't locate it. We suspect there were some problems with the map we got. 
    • Drove down to Queenstown and just before reaching the town, was awed by the breathtaking view of Lake Wakatipu, which has crystal clear water, and the reflection from the sky makes the lake have a greenish blue colour. 
    • Went to Fresh Choice to grab some groceries, before checking-in at Shotover River Lodge at Arthurs Point, located ten-minutes from Queenstown. It was a smart move to book the accommodation a few kilometers from the town centre as it is much cheaper and we got a better deal. 
    • While cooking our dinner at the kitchen, an Indian family was cooking there as well. Spotted thousand of types of curry and chilly powder in her plastic bag. I guess they just cannot get away from the spiciness in their cooking, even when they are traveling haha! 
    • Had grilled pork ribs, Chinese cabbage soup, a couple pieces of pizza, and orange juice mixed with Schweppes. Too bad the pork ribs had excessive sunburn. Technical error.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    NZ Day 5 - Wanaka

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    The mirror lake of Lake Matheson, with Mount Cook is visible in the far background.

    • Planned to catch the sunrise at Lake Matheson; so, woke up much much earlier than usual. Had a thirty-minute drive from Franz Josef before arriving at Lake Matheson. No cars were spotted there when we arrived, except a backpacker truck, which must had stayed overnight there.
    • Looked-up at the information board and realized that we had to walk for thirty minutes until reaching the best spot to view the lake and its reflection. The problem was that it was only minutes remaining before the sun rises. Should've timed our time earlier if we knew about that.
    • However, it wasn't too bad after all as we stopped somewhere to view the sunrise. Didn't get a clear view though, as it was a cloudy and foggy morning. Plus, some stupid ducks swimming in the lake left water ripples on the surface, and it affected the clear mirror reflection on the lake.
    • Finally, reached the spot where we could see Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and Mount Tasman, and their reflections on the lake. It could have been better if it was a clear weather and without those sesat ducks, who affected the calm water in the lake.
    • Had breakfast at Matheson Cafe. Ordered Matheson Breakfast, and some hot drinks after walking for more than an hour around the lake. One of my first Western meals since I came here.
    • Stopped at Fox Glacier, the other well-known glacier in New Zealand, located about 22 km away from Franz Josef Glacier. It was a stop just to take some pictures, as we didn't climb it. Anyway, it looks like it takes less time to reach the terminal area of the glacier in Fox, compared to Franz Josef. Personally, I still prefer Franz Josef Glacier as I think it looks nicer.
    • Made a stop at Bruce Bay, a beautiful wild beach with lots of pebbles and drift wood. It is famous for its rocks and pebbles piles, which people have built along the coast road. These rocks and drift wood piles actually bring no significance, as people, usually tourists and travelers passing by just followed suit what the others did earlier.
    • Stopped at Haast, a very small township just after the Haast Beach. It was the last time we saw the Tasman Sea in the west coast, as we traveled towards the middle section of the South Island after that. Had lunch at Haast - it was whitebait sandwiches for the two of us.
    • Made multiple stops for waterfall along Haast Pass. The highlight was at the Blue Pools of Haast Pass, which is one of a series of crystal clear pools that have been carved out of the rocks by centuries of erosion. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the colour of deep azure blue, and so clear that you can see right to the bottom, making the resident brown trout look like they are suspended in the air.
    • During our walk back from the pool, I told Mich a story of mine during my scouting years, in which I accidentally drank a bottle of turpentine, thinking that it was plain water. She became high and laughed non-stop, and made a hypothesis that drinking that bottle of turpentine had turned me into a crazy guy haha!
    • Reached Wanaka at half-past-three. Checked-into YHA Hostel Purple Cow in town, before going to Puzzling World, a world unique attraction specialising in puzzling eccentricity. The Illusion Rooms were incredible, and the Roman Toilet is probably the most photographed public toilet in New Zealand.
    • Outside the main building, it has a world's first "modern-styled" Great Maze. We gave a try on the maze. But in the end, we were short of one check-point and didn't complete the maze as it was getting late and cold.
    • Did some groceries later that night and cooked dinner. It was during that time I spotted four Japanese staying at the same hostel. Didn't really approach them to talk, but I saw one of the guys took a peek at the kitchen, and then overheard him saying something like, "Kit-chin, bee-see".

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    NZ Day 4 - Franz Josef

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    Franz Josef glacier, seen from the valley floor.

    • Woke up early again and had our home-cooked breakfast. Took a ten-minute walk from the motel to Franz Josef Glacier Guide Center, to join several other tourists to climb the Franz Josef Glacier on a half-day tour. Together with Fox Glacier, they are the two most well-known glaciers in New Zealand.
    • Registered ourselves, and given a briefing by one of the guides before getting our equipments for the climb, such as rain trousers, boots, gloves, hats, and rain coats at the counter. Had difficulties on the boots sizes at first, but managed to get the right size eventually. That's one of the cool thing to be in an ang moh country; not much worries on clothing and foot wear sizes, especially for a person who has an elephant-size feet like me. 
    • Took a short bus ride from the center to the starting point of the glacier adventure. Noticed that some of the instructions inside the bus were in Japanese. Apparently, these kinds of buses in New Zealand are mostly second-hand ones, imported from Japan. 
    • Walked through some bush for more than thirty minutes, before continuing our walk along some rocky valley, until the terminal area of the glacier, which took another thirty minutes or so. 
    • Broken into two groups, the first group was for those who prefer the challenging option, while the second group was for people who preferred to take it slow and easy. Almost everyone, including the two of us chose the latter group, and left the guide in the first group alone and lonely. That was when he started to pull some of us from the second group into his group haha! 
    • Our guide was an English lady, Taite who was friendly and funny person at the same time. Given some last minute pre-cautions before starting to climb the glacier.
      There were several sections, which were a little risky along the climb; but generally, it was quite okay. 
    • Got to walk through the cracks of ice, which was quite narrow. The inside of the ice was light blue-coloured, which was just too spectacular to describe it with words. 
    • Reached the point for the half-day trip after almost thirty minutes, which was about 280 meters above the sea level. Given some time to rest, had some snacks and snap photos. Took our homemade burger buns with ham, garlic, and onion dip with lettuces. 
    • The guide commented on one of the group member who was talking on the phone, as he appeared to be the first person she'd ever seen to make a phone call from the glacier haha! 
    • Went to the Glacier Hot Pools to relax, after our tiring glacier climb. The place had three pools with three different temperatures - 36, 38, and 40 degrees, but they are still considered "cold" compared to the onsens in Japan. 
    • Had a warm shower and went out to look for snacks. Of all snack, got each of us a stick of ice cream, in freezing winter evening! 
    • Went around the town to look for a hut, which was taken down from the mountains after the glaciers had retreated down the years. The hut was then re-erected at the visitors' center. Mission failed, as we couldn't locate the hut haha! 
    • Slept early after a long and tiring day at the glacier. Plus, it's gonna be an early drive on the next morning to catch the sunrise at Lake Matherson.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    NZ Day 3 - Hokitika

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    One of the most famous landmark at Hokitika, the Clock Tower.

    • Was woken up by the smell of the muffin that the owner of the hostel was baking early in the morning. It is quite huge, about three times the normal size. Most of the tourists who left messages in the visitors' log book mentioned about the nice muffin.
    • Mich couldn't finish up her piece of pizza, so I was made the "rubbish bin". It was already cold, so I thought of heating up the remaining tiny piece of pizza in the microwave. Too bad that I left it inside the microwave for too long; it was practically roasted when I took it out! No way I was gonna eat the black forest pizza lol!
    • While busy unloading stuff into the car, was greeted by a bird. Thought it was a kiwi bird, as it look like a kiwi, but no, it was just a cetak rompak version. Had to keep an eye on the bird as it was staring and targeting at our food and snack bags all the time, and it was attempting to jump into our car all the time haha!
    • Did some light groceries and shopping at Greymouth, and took a few shots along Grey River, where the water looks a bit greyish.
    • Stopped at Hokitika, a small township in the West Coast region, where Mich did her rural posting late last year, halfway down to Franz Josef.
    • Went to Hokitika Gorge, about 33 km away from the town. The beautiful turquoise blue water at the gorge was breathtaking as the gorge itself, which is surrounded by green bushes.
    • One great thing about traveling in New Zealand is that they normally do not charge any entrance fees at almost every nature parks and places. They only rely on donations to be used to maintain the place.
    • On our way back to Hokitika town, stopped by the roadside to meet my friend. Since I came to New Zealand, I have make friends with millions of sheep haha! This sheep that I met was super huge and old; must be the ancestor, I think lol! Was greeted with "baaa…" the moment I got down from the car to have a picture with him haha! Apparently, having sheep as pets is a common thing here.
    • Returned to the town to have fish and chips for lunch. The mussels were great, first time having them deep-fried. Went to the beach and had a jumping-shot session there. Mich fails when it comes to taking jumping photos, as I had to jump for 236543 times before a decent photo was captured haha! And she still can say my jump looks like lompat katak haha wtf!
    • Took a detour to Okarito Lagoon. Nothing much there, but just an abandoned wooden house by the edge of the lagoon. Continued our journey to Franz Josef and reached there by six in the evening.
    • Checked-in at Terrace Motel. The owner has a pet cat that was huge and fat; it looked hungry and was grumpy when we were at the reception counter, and almost jumped on us haha!
    • Was given a bigger unit, as it was vacant at that time. This is one of the good things when traveling during winter season, as it is not a peak season and the price is normally on promotional rates.
    • Had a simple dinner - instant noodles, grapes, lettuce and orange juice. Went to bed early to get a proper rest before starting an adventurous day on the next day.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    NZ Day 2 - Punakaiki

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    Looking south, at the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki.

    • It was a raining morning on the day we gonna set out on our tour around the South Island. Went to pick up the rental car first at Ace Rental, and was given a silver Mitsubishi Lancer. It's directly imported from Japan, as the audio and even the road-tax sticker were in Japanese.
    • Tailed behind Mich, driving her car, while she drove the rent car from the rental car center back home. My first time driving after more than one-and-a-half year. Not really a big deal, as I still remember how to drive a car haha!
    • Loaded the car with our luggage and food, mostly snacks that included a dozen of fresh eggs lol! Had a simple breakfast, including some coffee cakes with nuts and mooncakes, made by Mich's landlord's parent. Bid farewell to them and the little baby as well.
    • Let Mich drive first to familiarise myself with the traffic rules in New Zealand. It is very similar to driving in Japan, but I have never driven in Japan before, so it is better I watch and learn first.
    • Road was quite windy for most of the time along Arthur's Pass, a mountain pass in the Southern Alps that marks the boundary between Canterbury regions and the West Coast. Became the entertainer to the driver, i.e. Mich to keep her awake by creating lame jokes, which made her sweat most of the time lol!
    • Stopped at a few scenic spots along the way, one of it was Castle Hill, an imposing array of limestone boulders in the area reminiscent of an old, run-down stone castle.
    • Arrived at Greymouth and had lunch at McDonald's. There was a promotion of a new type of burger - Angus the Third, but I saw it wrongly and told Mich to order a August the 3rd burger haha!
    • Had a stroll around the small town of Greymouth, while doing some shopping before heading north to Punakaiki, to see the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. These limestones look like 'pancake'-layers, and they are heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts though a number of vertical blowholes during high tides. 
    • It was still early before the high tide, the time when the blowholes are usually best to be seen. So, we left the place and checked-in to our YHA Hostel, about ten-minute drive from the pancake rocks. It was a two-floor wooden house with four rooms, equipped with a kitchen and a living hall. We were lucky as the rest of the rooms were unoccupied; so it was like us having the whole house to ourselves!
    • Took a short walk from the hostel to the beach, and the waves from the Tasman sea was really strong and it was just amazing. Combined with the strong wind, the sea breeze stuck on our hands and we notice there were some fine salt on our hands when it dried off. Or maybe it was something else, my sweat perhaps? Haha!
    • After unloading our stuff, we returned to the pancake rocks and blowholes site to see the spectacular phenomenon of sea water being forced upwards through the blowholes. Lucky that the wind was blowing in the correct direction and managed to catch the blowholes at their best sight.
    • Watched the sunset from the southern hemisphere for the first time, overlooking the Tasman Sea. It was our first sunset in New Zealand.
    • Got home and cooked a simple dinner - sandwiches made of wholemeal bread with scrambled eggs, chicken patties, canned sardines, and salad, plus nectarine and golden kiwi fruits as desserts. It was the beginning where I have kiwi fruit for almost every meal in New Zealand!
    • Took an early rest as it would be a long drive down south on the next day.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    NZ Day 1 - Christchurch

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    Air New Zealand's plane at Auckland International Airport, moments before leaving for Christchurch.

    • Flew from Narita, Tokyo to Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, on three different planes, which took approximately 21-hours of travelling combined, while transiting in Hong Kong and Auckland.
    • The stop at Hong Kong International Airport was just a short one - just forty minutes of transit time. Hence, didn't really have the time to explore the airport.
    • On the flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, the seat to my right was empty, so got both seats to myself and slept in thousand-and-one different positions throughout the night haha!
    • During the late dinner, requested for chicken and rice by telling the guy "Chicken and rice, please", but he misheard my "please" as "fish", hence he gave me "fish and rice" instead =.= Food was just okay; MAS still serves the best food, I think.
    • Spotted one of the famous landmarks in Auckland - Auckland Tower from the plane, just before landing at Auckland International Airport. Greeted by a clear sunny afternoon upon reaching Auckland. Temperature was just perfect, around 15 degrees with some wind.
    • Had a short conversation with the Immigration Department officer upon reaching the custom area. Was asked several common questions, including the purpose of this visit. He somehow managed to figure that out and told me, "So, that's the girlfriend, yeah?"
    • New Zealand is known for their strict regulations regarding food stuff that is to be taken into the country, but managed to go pass the security check without any problem, since I was just importing a baby bear (read: Duffy). Fake one, of course lol!
    • Checked-in at Air New Zealand counter for the flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Was shown the way from the international terminal to the domestic terminal - I just had to take a fifteen-minute walk along a blue line painted on the road, by a friendly lady at the counter. My first impression about Kiwis - they are really friendly people.
    • Felt like releasing the call of nature while waiting for my flight, so walked to the nearest toilet. That was when tragedy struck; was just one step away from entering the ladies toilet at the domestic terminal. The girl who was standing right in front of the entrance saw that and smiled at my stupid action haha! She must be thinking, stupid perverted Asian guy!
    • Started to spot hundreds of sheep on the farm before the plane landed at Christchurch. They were like everywhere! Now I've started to believe that the sheep in New Zealand outnumber the total population of the Kiwi here haha!
    • The airport in Christchurch was just a small airport, about the size of the airport in Penang. In fact, it doesn't have an arrival hall that made me lost, unsure where to wait for Mich, who was supposed to pick me up.
    • The solution - went to the information counter and asked for the location of the arrival hall, ignoring the possibility that the locals might not understand my broken English haha! Lost already; so no choice but to ask them.
    • Instead of them unable to understand me, it was the opposite. Found the Kiwi accent too strong and unable to really catch what that guy was talking. Was hoping only if they could talk a little bit slower in a more civilized English haha!
    • At the same time, somebody familiar appeared and walked across the information counter. It was Mich and instead of helping this helpless guy, who was struggling with the Kiwi accent, she just smiled and walked away haha wtf! What a great way to meet-up again after 605 days.
    • First thing I did right after that was guess what, to get a hair cut at a Korean-operated saloon in the town! Haha, I know this sound a bit awkward and funny, and the guy's accent didn't help at all as I couldn't figure out what language he was speaking, whether was it Korean or English haha!
    • Had dinner at Subway as they were having some promotion for the foot-long pork riblet. Asked Mich why that guy said something like "three seed" to her after making payment. Actually, that Kiwi was asking her, "Would you like your receipt?" Haha, my Kiwi English is officially a failed case!
    • After hearing Mich telling me about Riccarton Mall for countless of times, I finally got to go there for real! Although it was just a average mall, it was like a dream come true, to be visiting a place that I only got to hear and read prior to this.Something like visiting Shinjuku station for the first time a few years ago, after only getting to read them in our Japanese language textbook during our language course.
    • Shopped for some winter clothing. Shopping for clothes in ang moh countries is paradise for someone as huge like me. Later after that, did some groceries at Pak & Save.
    • Had some light desserts at Strawberry Fare with Gao Jing and a few of Mich's crazy batch mates. All were medical students, so it was all about medical talks, while an Engineering student was stuck there, not understanding a single thing =.=
    • Returned to Mich's place, whose landlord is actually one of my senior's sister. The world is just a small place after all, isn't it? Didn't really have time to have much rest, as we would set out for our trip around the South Island on the next morning.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Kia Ora!

    I will be setting on a 20-hour flight journey to the southern hemisphere later this evening. 

    Christchurch by Night

    Till then, stay tuned for updates from the Kiwiland!

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    TEIC Festival & Tokyo Bay Fireworks Festival

    Short note: Since the summer break started, I have been doing several outings and at the same time, my wallet seems to be getting thinner by the day. Two days ago, the two of us spent the whole day shopping. But in the end, it was only me who shopped the most, or should I say, everything; from clothes at "21 Selamanya" to a pair of Timberland shoes and then a piece of carpet at IKEA, which totaled up to almost... errr, I think I should save the figure. Not sure what's up with the sudden urge to shop; exam stress relieving process perhaps haha!

    By the way, do you think it is possible to have two winters in a year? That's gonna happen in less than 24-hours time. That's the second hint ;)

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    It's like I am the first visitor to the festival lol!

    Tokyo International Exchange Center (TIEC) Festival is an annual event held at TEIC in Odaiba, Tokyo. This is an event where international students from all over the world living in TEIC get to introduce their culture, food, and show their ethnic dance, music or songs on the stage. I was there quite early, and met up with Wee Kien, who was already there earlier.

    As for the rest, they had gone to the beach at Odaiba Kaihin Park to reserve the spot for the fireworks display later that night. They eventually joined us at the festival after the spotted were reserved.

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    Stage was ready for the Bon Odori later that evening.

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    Visitors getter more and more when it was getting noon.

    As there were only two of us there, we decided to explore the place and see what's interesting on offer at the festival.

    The food court were still not ready yet, so we went to Plaza Heisei for some indoor activities. There were quite some activities for visitors, like fold your own airplane and then throw it to see how far it goes. Then, there's this activity where you get to draw your own design on transparent umbrellas. Very "interesting" activity, right?

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    A corner for visitors to experience the Japanese culture.

    We then went to another section - "World Picture Books and Kamishibai Corner". Sounds kinda interesting but what we saw were colourful story books, which are more suitable for kindergarten kids =.=

    There were still some other activities like experiencing the Japanese culture of calligraphy, tea ceremony and flower arrangement. However, we have done those a few times in the past, hence we gave that a skip.

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    We thought we might as well try our luck on this quiz.

    We initially assumed that it should not be a too difficult quiz. However, the first question already told us that it is not a straight-forward quiz at all. The first question was, "What is the highest active volcanic mountain in Japan?"

    A: Mount Fuji
    B: Mount Aso
    C: Mount Tsukuba

    What do you think the answer is? Quite tricky, right? I thought it was "Mount Aso", because Mount Fuji isn't an active volcanic mountain. So did Wee Kien. Well, we actually kinda discussed among ourselves through the quiz-lar haha! But the truth is, Mount Aso is the largest, but not the highest active volcanic mountain in Japan.

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    The questions that followed didn't get any much easier anyway. By the way, the answer is "China" for this question.

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    How on Earth we are gonna know the answer for this kind of question, right? Think this is "Who Want To Be A Millionaire" arh?

    I did something silly halfway through the quiz, that is by writing the answer for each question on the wrong column. The answer column goes vertically, but I didn't notice it and wrote my answers in horizontal sequence FML! I only realised it on the eighth question and I spent the rest of the time erasing and rearranging my answer haha!

    I think I am the only person in the hall who did this mistake. Luckily it wasn't an exam.

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    My answer sheet. Didn't have an eraser with me, so I used the traditional method by just cancelling the answers manually lol!

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    The result - got five out of ten correctly, which I think it was not bad, because I was given a packet of Tom Yam-flavoured instant noodle for my effort haha!

    While we wandered around the few floors in Plaze Heisei, we took the chance to collect the stamps for the stamp rally. I know this is more to a kid game, but the rest of the activities were even more childish and we didn't dare to take part in them haha!

    We reached the last check-point but couldn't locate the exact location to get the stamp. So, we approached one of the staffs nearest to us. Before we could even open our mouth, he already pointed to the outdoor sports ground and told us to walk there haha! I should have told him, "No, no, actually I'm looking for the nearest train station", just to save my embarrassment lol!

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    The final stop, which was the USA check-point.

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    I just realised that each check-point represents each continents - Egypt (Africa), Australia (Oceania), UAE (Asia), Spain (Europe), and USA (America).

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    The souvenirs and prizes I got - instant noodle from the quiz, Loacker cocoa and chocolate crackers from the stamp rally while the sweets on the bottom left was for completing a survey form.

    We were given the chance to take part in a lucky draw upon completing a survey form, and the prize I got was to use my palm to grab as many sweets as possible from the huge basket. I didn't hear clearly what the staff told me, so I kuai kuai took just one piece of sweet from the basket. She asked me whether I was sure that I was gonna take just one sweet. 

    It was then that I realised that I could take as many sweets as I could with my one palm. Having a palm as huge as a hippopotamus, I guess she regretted it for asking me that question earlier haha!

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    Lunch time approached and I went to the Uzbekistan stall and wondered why their naan looks like something else.

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    Bought this rice called pilov, which had beef, carrots and onions, cooked with few kinds of spices. A bit oily, but overall it was not bad.

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    Zemiakové placky, or potato pancake from the Slovakian stall. It is made from potato dough, and topped with some dressing and cheese.

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    Met-up with Kimura Sensei, our ex-Japanese language lecturer at PPKTJ in KL. She is now doing her Masters in Tokyo and currently living at TIEC hostel.

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    The Indonesia stall appeared to be enjoying a brisk business, but I wonder why they have such few stickers, which represents feedback from the visitors on which stalls that serves the best food.

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    Several of us went to take a ride on the kayu balak train haha!

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    Took a picture next to the event's information board, with the two girls who "berkelakuan baik" (inside joke).

    Seconds before the picture above was taken, I was taken aback when two girls ran towards the information board I was standing. My first instinct was how could two Japanese girls have the guts to take picture with a total stranger, especially a gigantic alien. Those two girls however, were actually Ikan and Li Ee, whom I got to know them from the hanami at Yoyogi Park early this year.

    We later made our way to the reserved spot at the beach, which was about fifteen-minute walk away from TEIC.

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    These are the people who went to the beach earlier that morning to reserve the spot for the fireworks later that night.

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    There was an exhibition - Green Tokyo Hello Kitty & Friends at the beach.

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    Crowded beach; a common sight every time there's a fireworks festival.

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    The huge Malaysian gang, comprises of JPA and Monkasho scholars, and Japanese language school private students. I think we occupied one of the largest space at the beach; ten pieces of blue sheets combined!

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    We still had several hours to go until the fireworks began. So we spent the time crapping, eating, sleeping, listening to music, nampa-ing, etc. 
    And also, going to the toilet a few times haha!

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    I just feel that this picture can have a very catchy caption. Anyone interested in giving a try? 
    For example, "See, simply press on my camera some more-lah! Now my camera mabuk already!"

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    Not everyone there are people we know; so we took the chance to ask each other's name, hometown, which universities they're from, what course, etc. Those are the common standard questions, ain't it?

    To be honest, I was quite excited initially to be able to watch the Tokyo Bay Fireworks for the first time. It is after all, one of the biggest fireworks festival in Tokyo, with approximately 14,000 fireworks. However, some time after it started, I started to feel sleepy lol! I don't mean to sound arrogant or what, but just thought of giving my personal honest opinion. This is perhaps, the least interesting fireworks festival that I've attended so far in Japan.

    One of the reason is perhaps because of the distance of our spot we were sitting, from the spot the fireworks were launched, which was separated quite far away. Secondly, the fireworks display didn't have much varieties. Overall, it was a little let-down, but anyway, here are some of the fireworks shots from that night.

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    We left twenty-minutes earlier than the time the fireworks was suppose to end, to avoid being trapped in human sea yet again. A normal ten-minute walk to the train station can turn into ninety-minute walk every time a firework festival ends. Besides that, both of us had to pack our stuff as we would be leaving for our summer trips.

    Anyway, it wasn't just us who left earlier. Some people started to leave early as well.

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    This is how crowded it got even when the fireworks display was still on.

    Can't imagine how chaotic it will turn thirty minutes from that.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Edogawa-Ichikawa Fireworks Festival 2010

    Long note: I had a funny dream last night. If you read the news, the Electric Train Service (ETS) between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur has began its operation last week. In my dream, I saw that ETS running on the JR Sobu Line, which connects Tokyo and Chiba. The new train was quite wide and spacious, having about ten seats per row and it seems to receive good feedbacks from the public. I know that it is a little bit weird for a train to have such many numbers of seats in a row. That's not a train anymore, but a plane lol! Perhaps it was from another news (video here) that I saw somewhere on the other day, that gave me such creative imagination haha! 

    By the way, my summer holiday officials starts today! It will be a seven-week break, in which I will be spending four of those in the southern hemisphere. That's the first hint I'm giving *hehe*

    On another note, I attended a guidance session regarding a lesson I'll be taking next semester, in which we will be dealing with machines in the factory. The pak cik explained it in such way that in the end, I feel that he wanted to scare us off. He shared with us his experiences of having students who had bruises, cuts, and burns during this lesson. Apparently, there had been even serious cases in which students accidentally amputated their finger, and had to tapao back their finger haha!

    It was my first fireworks festival in the Kanto region - Edogawa-Ichikawa Fireworks Festival 2010.

    Summer is a lovely time of the year and of course, the best period to view fireworks. The first Saturday of August is the day when most of the fireworks festivals are held in Japan. In the metropolitan region itself, there are as many as 22 locations of fireworks displays. It just shows how much the Japanese have special liking for fireworks. Among those, Edogawa Fireworks Festival, which is held simultaneously with Ichikawa City, and Itabashi Fireworks Festival (also held simultaneously with Todabashi) are the two main festivals in Tokyo region that offers big-scale fireworks display.

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    It was three hours to go until the fireworks began, but the train station was already crowded with people.

    Watching fireworks with your own-eyes and from videos are completely two different things. That is why even though I was still busy, in the middle of my finals last Saturday, I took a break to join the rest of the Chiba gang to attend the fireworks festival in Ichikawa City, about thirty-minutes of train ride from my place in Inage, Chiba.

    I was the first to arrive at JR Ichikawa station, and the rest followed shortly after that. It was a simple task for them to spot me among the crowd, due to my errrr... you know.

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    It took us about thirty minutes to walk from the station to the riverbank of Edogawa, where the fireworks display was held.

    We had Bao Cong and several juniors who had went there earlier, since the afternoon to book a place for our group. Otherwise, it would be impossible to get a good spot by that time, especially when we were there in a big group.

    The first task was to locate them once we reached the riverbank and boy, it wasn't an easy task at all.


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    That aunty in the middle looked very kan cheong and excited haha!

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    Three stooges trying to locate them.

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    Just look at the crowd!

    There were far too many people there, that it is almost impossible to locate them directly, unless we call them on the phone. But here is the problem. Too many people were using their phones at the same time in that area, that the signal went mabuk. We only got to call them after no less then ten attempts.

    Once we arrived at the riverbank, the first thing that came to my mind was that the place really resembles the location where the annual Nagaoka Fireworks Festival is held - along a river. There was a significant size of crowd there, especially on the opposite side of the river, which is within the Edogawa Ward.

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    Almost every empty space was already taken by this time, and everyone was just waiting for the fireworks to start at quarter-past-seven in the evening.

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    There were two huge truck cranes on the opposite site of the river. Guess what were they for? I will reveal it later.

    Edogawa Ward fireworks festival started right after a recession and oil crisis that happened in 1973. The enthusiasm among the locals from that event prompted them to start this fireworks festival. Held along the riverbed of Edo River, it is held simultaneously with the Ichikawa City fireworks festival every year. It can be considered among the biggest fireworks festivals in this region, as there are approximately 1.4 million of spectators (900,000 in Edogawa Ward and 500,000 in Ichikawa City).

    This fireworks festival is famous for its opening five seconds, where 1,200 fireworks are launched simultaneously from ten spots.

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    While waiting for the start of the fireworks, we played Uno, munched our snacks and of course, did some camwhoring.

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    Domino's pizza?

    Yup, that's right.

    Apparently, the staffs from Domino's pizza are equipped with GPS gadgets, where people can make orders from their mobile phones, and the pizzas will be delivered right at the spot where they are sitting. It's just amazing to see them ready to deliver the pizzas in such a crowded area. This is how efficient the customer service in Japan.

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    Sunset by Edo River. The building on the left is the Tokyo Sky Tree, which is still under construction and due to be completed by the end of next year.

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    Beautiful combination of colours in the sky right after the sun had set.

    The fireworks is comprised of eight different themes, which is repeated in between the wide star-main and star-main fireworks.

    There was a five-second countdown prior to the opening fireworks display, which received loud applause from the spectators. I have to say I was quite impressed by the opening display and it certainly lives up to the high expectations everyone were anticipating.

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    The mystery was finally revealed. The truck crane was actually used to lift the fireworks that resemble Niagara's (fireworks waterfall) Mount Fuji when ignited.

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    Above the fireworks waterfall is sakura (cherry blossoms) fireworks. A very creative idea, I must say.

    Niagara's fireworks is also can be seen at Nagaoka fireworks festival. However, the Nagaoka version is ignited from a bridge. Seeing them using a truck crane to launch the Niagara's fireworks in Edogawa reminded me to the quote from our very own uncle Samy Vellu not very long ago. 

    He once said during a ceramah, "Kita akan bina satu jambatan untuk orong-orong kampong di sini (We will be building a bridge for the people in this village)". One pak cik asked, "Datuk, sini takde sungai, buat apa bina jambatan? (Gradpa, there's no river her, why wanna build a bridge?)"


    Samy gloriously replied, "Kalau takde sungai, kita bina sungai! (If there's no river, we build a river!)"

    As for this case, they don't have a bridge, so they built a temporary one. For the first time, I realised Samy Vellu's words are logical haha!

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    Japanese fireworks are without doubt an elaborate and magnificent art, even though a dangerous one for the masters who fabricate the many varieties of colored bursts that thrill onlookers. Compared to Western countries, the most obvious and pleasant characteristic of Japanese fireworks are in the creation and firing of eye-pleasing spherical explosions.

    The artistic concepts of fireworks are different between Western countries and Japan, thus the design, manufacturing process and its structures are different.

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    In Western countries, fireworks are created to be dynamic and powerful, Roman candles, snakes and the like with the sequence of bursts harmonized to the sound of accompanying music.

    In Japan, the main creative idea of the fireworks master is to design and create the explosions in the shape of huge balls so the effects are seen equally well, to the delight of all onlookers.

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    "Hanabi" (花火), or "fireworks" in the Japanese language can also be translated as 'flower fire'. This flower image comes from beautiful spherical shaped blossoms such as the peony or the chrysanthemum, well known as Japan's Royal Family's symbol.

    At Nagaoka fireworks festival, there would be a brief introduction on the each fireworks, the sponsors, etc before each of them are launched. I think there are only a few places where it is done like this, because during the one at Edogawa, they just launched the fireworks randomly.

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    When I saw randomly, I mean, really randomly to the extend where the unburned fireworks shells  flew everywhere, as if we were at a war zone haha! I am not kidding here. The wind on that day was rather strong, and it caused the unburned fireworks shells, some of them still on fire to fly everywhere, that it hit some unlucky spectators.

    There was an unlucky couple, sitting about one meters behind us, who was hit by a piece of fireball. They panicked, and frantically tried to waved it away. Shortly after that, another piece just missed my face by about thirty centimeters.

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    This is not the best shot, nevertheless, I was glad I wasn't hit by a fireball when I was taking this picture haha!

    For the first time ever, I felt that watching fireworks is a dangerous job!

    The journey back to the train station was another adventure. A walk, which should take us less than thirty-minutes, turned almost three times longer. Our movement were limited to a speed slower than Streamyx. So, you should be able to roughly estimate how slow we walked.

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    My job was to lead the rest through this crazy crowd.

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    We reached the train station in one piece, and as expected, it was total havoc and chaotic.

    Ohh yea, this is a souvenir I got from the fireworks festival.

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    Or should I say, from the war zone?