Friday, December 31, 2010

Rewind 2010

A recap of 2010 - the first year of the new decade. 

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  • Welcomed the New Year at my new house in Inage, although technically I was still studying in Nagaoka and hadn't moved to the new place.
  • This is the first time I celebrated the New Year in Japan, although I have came here for more than three years. The previous two years were in Taiping and Malacca.
  • It will be our last time to spend the winter in a snowing area, so the
    crazy three - Muazam, Ridzuan and me decided to go out for a snow adventure,  walking under the heavy snow lol!
  • Attended a New Year event - "Cross-Cultural New Year Get-Together" at the Chikyu Hiroba of the Nagaoka International Affairs Center in the Nagaoka Civic Centre.
  • Just like the saying goes - "One second you feel like you're in cloud nine, the happiest person in the world; but the next thing, it feels that the whole world has come crashing down on you." That was what happened to me on the on the first month of the year, that I decided to take a break from blogging for almost a month.
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        • Nobody's better to help myself to get up, if not myself. That was the moment I lifted myself and live like how I used to.
        • February is the "farewell month" because the school calendar in Japan usually ends by this month. Had a farewell party, organised by the Yukitsubaki-kai (雪椿会) for the international students from the fifth grade, who will graduate in the next several weeks.
        • Though this year marks our third-straight year not being able to celebrate the Chinese New Year at home, we continued our tradition of having our own version of the reunion dinner among ourselves at the hostel. By the way, Valentine's Day fall on the same day as the Chinese New Year this year.
        • Our juniors had a farewell party for the seniors at the hostel. This party is also considered a tradition among us Malaysians, to bid farewell for the leaving seniors. One of my favourite farewell party because only Malaysian food are served haha!
        • Another farewell party, this time by the school, held at the school cafeteria for the eight international students who are leaving.
        • Attended the "7th International Cultural Exchange Get-Together", organised by Nagaoka City International Cultural Exchange Organisation at New Otani Hotel, Nagaoka.
        • My third time to the Yukishika Festival, an annual snow festival in Nagaoka.
        • Visited a local school -  Aobadai Junior High School (青葉台中学校) as part of the "Sekai-ga Sensei" programme to introduce Malaysia to the kids. It was so fun to have the kids asking me silly but funny questions.
        • As one of the requirements to graduate, I had my graduation research presentation with my research partner. Glad that the presentation went smoothly.
        • Went to the hot-air balloon festival at Ojiya, a small town near Nagaoka.
        • Joined several foreigners for a Winter Nagaoka Tour around the city. It was organised by Nagaoka City International Cultural Exchange Organisation.
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              • From an interpreter, I turned a tour guide to the same people. Took them to tour around Tokyo and the period just fell on the right time - the peak period of sakura season.
              • Joined the rest of the Malaysian for hanami at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, organised by MSAJ.
              • Celebrated my 23rd birthday, which was loaded with cookies and snacks haha! 
              • Paid a visit to Sakura town for the annual tulip festival. The place was quite beautiful and has a Dutch windmill as well.
              • Started my new life at Chiba University, as a third year undergraduate in the Mechanical Engineering faculty, which began with the entrance ceremony.
              • Participated in the blood donation campaign at my school; my second time in Japan.
              • Was selected as one of the twenty Malaysian students to attend the welcoming ceremony at  Sori Kantei (総理官邸), the principal workplace of the Prime Minister of Japan, in-conjunction with the official visit of Malaysia's Prime Minister to Japan.
              • Attended a dinner with the Prime Minister at New Otani Hotel, Tokyo. Upon arriving at the reception counter, I was told to seat in the same table with other distinguished guests, including Datuk Rais Yatim.
              • Attended the international students' welcoming ceremony of Chiba University.
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                • Went over to Bao Cong and Wee Kien's place for their house warming party. Everyone went crazy when we played Jenga later that evening haha! 
                • I gave a skip to the annual Golden Week gathering in 2009, but this time I made sure I didn't miss out on this event; one of the biggest event every year.
                • Andrew, my senior invited to to join him for a BBQ session with the rest of the seniors at Tamagawa. It was great to meet up with several seniors who are many years my senior.
                • Had a trip to see the shibazakura and cherry plucking at Yamanashi prefecture with Kai Cung and Shei Pien during the Golden Week holiday.
                • Underwent my intraLASIK surgery and from the result I got after that, I guess the money was really worth spending.
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                  • Meet up with a Japanese actress, who happened to be Andrew's friend at his farewell party in James's place.
                  • Was mostly busy with the mid-term exams, hence activities were quite minimal on this month.
                  • Attended the ASEAN Festival in Tokyo. Managed to try some local food from other South East Asian countries, which was really good.
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                  • Visited the forth country in my life - China. Kai Cung and I went to Shanghai to attend the World Expo 2010. The Malaysia Pavillion was nothing extraordinary, instead I personally feel that it was quite a let-down, compared to other countries.
                  • The Shanghai trip was not bad, in fact we had great fun going around several places besides the World Expo.
                  • Donated blood for the second time of the year.
                  • Attended the famous Inage Sengen Shrine Festival, which is held nearby my place.
                  • Went to Tokyo Disneysea, which is just next to Tokyo Disneyland. Though we only went on a half-day pass, we managed to ride on most of the rides in the park.
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                        • Attended a Hari Raya open house by Puan Siti Zaharah at the staff apartment in Kami-meguro in Tokyo.
                        • Just slightly more than a month since I experienced an earthquake, I felt another mild on again; this time in Chiba.
                        • Gathered at Tokyo to have a futsal game among us. That is how "pathetic" we were, who desperate for some footie session haha!
                        • Attended the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council Youth Program as one of the delegates who represent Malaysia in Tokyo. It was indeed an informative and interesting program, which I was fortunate to participate.
                        • Watched "Ice Kacang Puppy Love" at the NHK Asian Film Festival in Tokyo.
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                              • Attended the annual Chiba University Festival, which was held for several days.
                              • Was invited by my senior, Crystal to join Andrew and Amy to her son's 10th surprise birthday party at her place in Toyocho.
                              • Participated in the blood donation campaign at my school; my third time this year, which makes it four times in total for me to donate blood in Japan.
                              • There was another festival held nearby my place - Inage Lights Festival - Yotoboshi.
                              • Met up with Pete Teo, who was in Tokyo to have a live gig with Miyake Yohei at Tokyo Time Out in Ebisu. Managed to have his first album autographed as well.
                              • Went to Hondoji Temple in Matsudo to see the autumn foliage, including the night light-up that was really beautiful.
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                                  • Visited Showa Kinen Park for the annual Momiji Festival. The Japanese garden inside the park was amazingly beautiful with red autumn foliage. One of the most breathtaking garden I have seen in Japan.
                                  • Chiba University had their biannual Universal Festival. This time it was the Vietnamese and Nepalese who introduced their country to us and we got to taste their local food as well at the end of the event.
                                  • My senior, Crystal invited the few of us again to her place; this time to celebrate Windell's birthday. We had great food and fun talking about all kinds of topic throughout the day.
                                  • Had a presentation for the "Engineering Design" class for our group and later that night, the fourteen of the transfer students from my course went out to have a year-end party together at a Chinese restaurant.
                                  • Returned to home sweet home after more than one-and-a-half year being away from Malaysia for my short winter break. Spent one good week at Taiping, visited my aunt at Penang with Michelle, and attended the Bodhi Puja on New Year's Eve. One thing for sure, surrounded by good Malaysian food all the time!
                                    I'm not a fan of making resolutions come the new year every time;
                                    Anyway, though this might sound cliché, always remember to:

                                    "Appreciate the people and things you have while you can before you lose them;"
                                    "Live your life to the fullest like no tomorrow;"
                                    "And love yourself first, before loving others." 

                                    "Happy New Year 2011"

                                    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

                                    Nurturing The New Thomas Edison

                                    One of the compulsory subjects that the third year students in my Mechanical Engineering faculty have to take is デザイン工学, or literally "Engineering Design". Basically, we are divided into several teams comprising four to five team members in a team. Each team is assigned a theme that is closely related to the research of the lecturer who supervises each team. Generally, the themes are associated to the Mechanical Engineering field where each teams are supposed to plan, design and built something from that given theme. At the end of the whole thing, we have to present our results to everyone.

                                    Though there is a lecturer who will supervise each teams throughout the duration of the project, their job is only limited to giving advices from time to time. Apart from that, everything else, from brain-storming for ideas, planning, designing, and presenting will be done by us.

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                                    The venue for the presentation.

                                    After months of hard work, the day for us to present our project finally came on last Monday. The presentation was done on the third floor of the administration block of the Engineering Department. It was not the usual group-by-group presentation in front of the lecturers and other students. Instead, it the format used was the booth-format, where we will explain our project to anyone who drops by at our booth.

                                    As there are four of us in our group, we took turns to man our booth.

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                                    お風呂の柱 (The Bathing Pillar), called "Mitsuji".

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                                    This is one of the most interesting invention. When a certain amount of hot water flows into the hole, the spring inside the pipe will pull the stopper and close the hole; hence water can accumulate in the bath tub.

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                                    This team utilities surface tension to design a device that moves on the water surface.

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                                    They created a model of water striders (アメンボ) that can move on water. The model weighs approximately 7.5 grams.

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                                    This team made a bird model. You might now wonder why are all the inventions all about animals lol!

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                                    A can compressor, that is used to compress empty cans.

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                                    The most high-tech invention of all - a tennis ball collector under Nonami Kenzo sensei.

                                    There are four of us in our team - Sato Yuki, Nitagai Ryusuke, Miura Takuya (not Kimura Takuya hor) and Karuvin Ong haha! We are under Kato Hideo sensei guidance and our theme is 福祉と機械 (Welfare and Machines). Yea, I know our theme sound very antique and "old", but I thought it was quite an interesting theme. Besides, all of us are transfer students from kosen, so it would be much easier to work together as we have known each other quite well.

                                    Kato sensei wanted us to use a motor on the device we was going to design. That was when I thought I had chosen the wrong team and theme (pun unintended) because to be honest, I have no interest in electric and electronics ever since ... my high school days, I think. Until today, I hardly understand much on this topic lol!

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                                    Introducing "DHK-48", an abbreviation for "Dansa Hojo Kiko 48mm".

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                                    Our poster, which I designed. How does it look? Not bad right? I think so too haha! A clearer version here.

                                    So, what did we come out with? In the initial stage, we wanted to design a device that can be useful to the older generations to help them in their daily lives. Unfortunately, after several rounds of failed brain-storming sessions, we decided to change our target to small infants and babies. I shall give a brief introduction on this device. 

                                    Nowadays, many devices have been developed with the ability to assist the elderly, infants, and people with disabilities. To these group of people, even a step of few centimeters between the walking pavement will cause obstruction, which can cause falls and fractures. Besides the steps, the gap between roadways, sidewalk, and train platforms are also a hindrance to them.

                                    Hence, we came out with an idea to create a device to overcome this problem. This device can be attached to a baby car or stroller, to help it overcome these steps and gaps. Compared to the normal devices in the market currently, this device is applicable to a wider range of steps height and it can be fixed and removed whenever required.

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                                    That sensei in blue shirt, Nakamoto Takeshi sensei apparently will deduct 1,000 marks (yes, 1,000 marks, not 10 or 100 marks) everytime a student fails to submit their report on time. Luckily I didn't take his class haha!

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                                    Koyama Hideo sensei, who is my homeroom teacher. He is one of the very few sensei who is really nice and friendly, plus funny too most of the time.

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                                    Always talks halfway and laugh on his own lol! There he goes again, with one of his jokes haha!

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                                    Hirofumi Hidai sensei, listening attentively to the explanation by Nitagai.

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                                    Some unknown person at our booth, admiring our poster with Sato haha!

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                                    Finally, a group photo with our sensei, Kato Hideo sensei.

                                    Later that night, all the transfer students in my course organised a year-end party, called "bōnenkai" (忘年会) to bid farewell to the year before the start of the winter break later this week. It is quite common to have this party at the end of the year among your classmates, colleagues, and friend in Japan. A month later, it will be the "shinnenkai" (新年会).

                                    There are fourteen of us who transferred from kosen into the third year of the Mechanical Engineering faculty this year. This is the very first time that all fourteen of us gathered together to have a meal.

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                                    No "nomikai" starts without having "kanpai" first.

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                                    Yasu, the "kanji" (幹事) or coordinator of the night posing for the camera with his crazy face haha!

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                                    Forced them to have a photo just before Nitagai (third from right) leaves the place.

                                    Unlike the usual "nomikai" (飲み会) party, we had our party at a Chinese restaurant, "Bankin" near Nishi Chiba station. It was a eat-as-you-can dinner. We need not have to order the food in the beginning because they already prepared some dishes for us in advance. The food quantity was so much that everyone was super full at the end of the party. Generally, I think the food was not bad.

                                    There were a few of us who ordered Coca Cola and soft drinks after finishing their first glass of beer. That invited some cheeky teases from others who said they were so "kawaii" haha! Anyway, good thing that nobody got drunk in the end of the night.

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                                    There were rounds after rounds of drinking throughout the dinner.

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                                    Our ketua darjah (class monitor) a.k.a. the "kanji" has improved a lot. He drank quite a lot that night haha!

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                                    Looked relieved to finished off his glass of beer lol!

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                                    Payment time. Stacks of 1,000 yen notes on the table. The bill of the night adds up to 42,000 yen!

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                                    Giving a short closing speech. He kept apologising for making us waited for him earlier that night, as he was the last one to reach.

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                                    A group photo with everyone.

                                    "Yoi otoshi wo" (良いお年を) to everyone!

                                    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

                                    Puzzling World Wanaka

                                    During our short time in Wanaka, Michelle brought me to Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World, one of the most well-known tourist attraction in New Zealand. The place is just two kilometers from Lake Wanaka near the town, where we stayed for the night. This world unique attraction that specialises on puzzling eccentricity can be considered a must-see attraction in the South Island of New Zealand.

                                    As soon as we arrived at Puzzling World, we instantly noticed its crazy architecture. One of them is the Leaning Tower of Wanaka. This whole tower leans at an incredibly 53 degrees to the ground, that makes it looks impossible to balance on one corner. It seems that this tower managed to defy the laws of physics, especially in gravity and moments. As a comparison, the Leaning Tower of Pisa only leans six degrees.

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                                    Puzzling World near Wanaka, New Zealand.

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                                    The photogenic Tumbling Towers, added in 1994. 

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                                    The Leaning Tower of Wanaka at the front lawn, which was built in 2000.

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                                    The unique Back To Front Clock.

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                                    Puzzling World has possibly the world's best puzzling and illusion museum.

                                    One unique features of the clock on the Leaning Tower is that this New Zealand backwards clock has been moving backwards since the eve of the new millennium; something that we didn't realise when we were there.

                                    Upon getting the tickets and walk pass the entrance gate, we came to the incredible Illusions Room, a place where one needs to see it to believe it. Each and every rooms are unique and is an illusion on its own right. The first room was the Hologram Hall, where there is a huge collection of amazing 3-D holograms. We have to stand at the right angle to see the full-effect of the holograms, which means tall people like me should bend down, while shorter people have to stand a little bit further away.

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                                    One of the holograms in the Hologram Hall.

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                                    Entrance to the Hall of Following Faces illusion room.

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                                    The seven famous faces that are used in this hall. Can you name every one of them?

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                                    These faces seems to turn and follow us around the room when we walk from faces to faces. Cool (and a bit scary haha!), isn't it?

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                                    There are 168 giant models of those seven famous faces on its spherical wall.

                                    The Mona Lisa portrait is famous because of the way the eyes follow us. However, in this unique hall, the whole face appear to rotate and follow us left and right, up and down. Another amazing illusion in this hall is that although the faces are concave (inwards), they can appear to be convex (outwards).

                                    Next was the Ames False Perspective Room. The technique of this illusion was used in The Lord of the Rings film to create tall people and little people. The shape of this room is totally distorted although when viewed from outside through a window, the room looks perfectly normal.

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                                    The Ames False Perspective Room is as the background.

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                                    Looks like just a normal room, isn't it?

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                                    Now you see a short giraffe.

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                                    Then suddenly, it grew ten times taller than the Twin Towers haha!

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                                    Look at how short Michelle is lol!

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                                    Two interesting aluminum puzzles, which were made from one sheet of metal without being joined or welded.

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                                    Elephant-to-be with elephants haha!

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                                    Christmas is just around the corner and poor Santa has a big problem.

                                    The next room was the Tilted House. The room is built not horizontally but tilted at an angle of fifteen degrees. 

                                    We will think that it is a usual room and all the displays inside are normal. However, when we walked into the room, we could not go straight and felt the gravity as a strange sensation. The illusion is so strong that our brain is convinced the room cannot be sloping. The brain straightens up the room at the expense of the displays that seem to hang at impossible angles.

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                                    :)

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                                    There is only one true level line in the room and it is the level that Professor Puzzle is holding!

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                                    Roll a cue ball on the left side and the ball will roll upwards to the right!
                                     


                                    Here is a video of the cue ball.

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                                    Still standing straight haha!

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                                    The water looks like running uphill, against the gravity. The truth is that it is running downhill, one degree to the right.

                                    After going around the illusion rooms, we went outdoor for several more attractions. Michelle insisted me to visit the public toilet there. It made me curious why she die die wanted me to go there. Anyway, on our way there, there were also many posters with magnificent paintings by M. C. Escher on the walls.

                                    So, we finally reached the public toilets. You must be wondering what the hell would we wanna visit such place. But believe it or not, this entertaining Roman-style toilets is probably the most photographed toilet in New Zealand.  Apart from the usual ladies and gents, there is a third room - the Roman-style toilets!  Before entering the actual toilet, we arrived in this big hall where we saw a very realistic painting of people using the toilet. They are designed to replicate Roman-style ablutions with a magnificent Diorama (mural).

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                                    Posing with the monkey statue (who uses Fair and Lovely, I think haha!) under the monkey tree.

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                                    Someone's having constipation in the Roman-style toilets haha!

                                    We save the best for the last - the world's first modern-style Great Maze (Labyrinth). This maze consists 1.5 kilometers of passages and it is estimated that on average, it takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete it. There are two challenges in this interesting puzzle; one is simpler and the other is harder.  There are emergency doors for those with limited time, patience or energy, so one can quit whenever they want.

                                    We tried solving the maze by taking up the simpler version. However, for someone like me who had short-term memory lost problem, it was almost a nightmare to require me to remember all the passages we have passed by. Luckily, Michelle was there and most of the time, it was her who took the lead while I tried to peek through the tiny holes between the walls lol!

                                    Too bad somebody complained that she was hungry already after almost half an hour. So, in the end, we didn't manage to complete it and exited the maze through one of the emergency doors, disappointed. However, we still managed to reach three of the four coloured corners where on most of the time, I cheated by using my giraffe height to look over the wooden walls to see if the passage leads to a jalan mati (dead-end) haha!

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                                    The Great Maze - Labyrinth.

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                                    Most of the time, it looks like you are very close to reaching your target-location, but in the end you find yourself coming to a dead-end!

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                                    We tried the standard challenge, in which we had to locate the four corner towers.

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                                    One of the four corner towers - the yellow tower.

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                                    These two ang moh look like they are lost haha!

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                                    It is unusual to see a maze which has two-storey. Photo taken from here.

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                                    We managed to conquer the green tower!

                                    Last but not least, we spent some time at the lawn of Puzzling World to camwhore with the crazy structures there. I don't think there is even one person who has been to Puzzling World and did not take a photo with him holding or doing something stupid with the Leaning Tower of Wanaka.

                                    I decided to be a bit siao, hence this pose below.

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                                    Wow, I can support the whole tower with only my butt lol!

                                    In all, it was a great experience and recommended for everyone.