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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Malaysia Bound!

I love travel, I dislike the traveling part

Being stuck in a bus longer than 3hrs or an airplane longer than 8hrs and I start losing my mind. Especially if it is a full bus/flight. Add being a tad hungover, totally my fault and everyone should point and laugh without any sympathy, but still I will whinge about it, and it is not a pretty site.

I got to the airport and through security no problem. Then I sat and wallowed in my misery of feeling like I had been hit by truck, a small one maybe, but still a truck. No major headache but just “thick” all over. Am sure some of you know this feeling. As I sat there mindlessly texting and calling my kiwi friends trying to get the most out of the $20 I had to spend to recharge (only to go to places for 2wks without signal), I realised that my seat number sounded decidedly like a middle seat. With only 10minutes before my Airasia flight was due to board I popped over to the counter (well maybe it was more like plodded) and asked if my hunch was correct. Unfortunately, yes and add to that they said the flight was 11hr 15min….. I would surely go insane or my seat partners would as a flight that long would have me up and down every hour at the very least.

Bless their hearts they were able to change me to an aisle seat, and I could have kissed them, they couldn’t do it electronically as the system had already closed. But they called someone important and got it sorted. Thank my lucky stars.

A final bathroom run, taking 15min as every other women had the same idea, and onto the plane to head to the tropics and scuba diving. Other than a 5 day live aboard in Southern California (still considered cold water) about 7yrs ago I had never done a diving holiday and this was the first time that I would be diving in warm water.

The plane was pretty full and except for those few lucky bastards with a full row, including one girl slightly behind and to the left of me, everyone else was chock-a-block.

I had ordered the entertainment unit, which was a very good idea, and meals, so was all set. I could just lean back, as far as the seat would go, and relax, but maybe if I cross my legs or put my feet on my bag or put one leg under the other or or or……ahhhh I hate trying to get comfy in an airplane seat.

Dispelling a myth

Many people, especially those of the taller persuasion, assume that short people have it easy while traveling as obviously our knees don’t get crammed against the seat in front. Well I wish to dispel that myth as it is not so. True our knees are not trying to crash their way through the person in fronts seat, but many of us of the not quite little person height but pretty damn close, have the opposite problem. Our feet don’t touch the ground. Once again the tall folks would think this a blessing. But in truth it is exceptionally uncomfortable. We are too tall to curl up in a ball or cross our legs in the seat but too short to comfortably have our feet dangle. This puts a lot of pressure on the back and hips and butt.

Solutions:

– Placing bag under feet to elevate them. But this often results in the attendants telling you to put your bag in the overhead compartment forcing you to try and hide it with a blanket.

– If you are in a bulk head seat sometimes you are able to slouch far enough for your feet to press against the front, thus making it more comfortable, often we are too short to reach.

– Trying to put your legs crossed on the food tray, but this too is frowned on by the attendants.

– Squeezing your feet into the space between seats and creating a pretzel effect to balance both feet up.

– Being resigned to being uncomfortable.

Benefit

The one and only benefit to being of the shorter statue is that give us 3 seats and we can literally stretch out and sleep like a baby… So I guess in the long run we have it better.

Wasting a perfectly good seat

After about 8hrs I glanced over at the lucky wench who had a full row and saw her sitting upright in the middle seat. Not even putting her feet up. I mean if you are going to have a whole row the least you can do is use it and not make the rest of us even more jealous than we already are…or maybe that’s just me.

Finally I couldn’t stand it as I was desperate for sleep or at least getting horizontal! I leaned over and asked if she would trade with me for just an hour. She looked at me a bit confused, think she was Malaysian, and then said sure and we traded.

Blissful bliss, my head hit the seat and I was out for almost exactly 1hr. Just enough time to prevent the massive headache from forming and boring a whole all the way through my brain.

Kuala Lumpur

Finally landing around 10.30pm I got through immigration, customs and even picked up a free sim card for the phone. After grabbing my bag, I headed out into the glorious heat and humidity of Malaysia night time. Almost instantly I heard a happy shout calling my name and there was my friend Chauw.

I had met Chauw when I lived in Korea and trained Taekwondo, he is a master in KL and we had communicated about techniques over the taekwondo websites. When I left Korea in 2004 I had made a trip from Singapore to KL and he had met me then as well and showed me round. Now after almost 5yrs lost contact we had re-established communication and he had invited me to stay at his home with him, his wonderful wife and their little dog (who has way to much personality for a little fluffy white thing). It does amaze me how I am lucky enough to have such amazing friends all around the world.

Their house was amazing and I had my own room and bathroom. I was too exhausted to do much so went straight to bed.

Yummy breakfast

At 7am we all went out for breakfast at a local place. I had something I had had 7yrs before, roti (like a pancake type thing) with condensed milk drizzled over it. Chauw also got me something called a Roti Tissue, which is another pancake that has been made super thin and then folded to form a pyramid. It was smothered in sugar and delicious. The perfect compliment to both was a glass of Milo Ice…. mmm I love Malaysia. I was so busy eating that I forgot to get photos.

Recovering

I find these days recovering from flights like the one the day before takes a bit longer. Actually I don’t ever remember just bouncing back into a full day of activities after long flights. Add to that the blistering weather and humidity and I was pretty much motionless for most of the day, it was just as well Chauw and Viven had to go to work. Sleeping, watching TV, reading, writing consisted of most of my day. Making the kimchi ramen and trying to figure out how the tv worked was about the most active thing I managed.

The weather was 30+ decgrees C and the humidity was stifling, luckily the fan made the difference and if I just couldn’t bare it anymore I would move to my room with the air conditioning. You didn’t want to spend the whole time in the room as you needed to get your body aclimatized to tropical conditions. In the early afternoon the sky turned the color of midnight and a torrential downpour started. I love rainstorms and sat staring at it for some time.

An evening out

After everyone finished work we went out for Japanese and then to a bar for drinks. It was almost halloween and the bar was also in the middle of Octoberfest, the contrast in decorations were quite amusing.

Chauw with his Octoberfest beer


Viven and me with cupcakes


Halloween meets Octoberfest

Exploring, ATM’s and Super Plush Movie Theater

Saturday was my only full day in KL before heading to Borneo. Still sounds weird to me to be able to say that…Borneo. We all slept late and then went for dimsum for brunch. The choices were endless and quite overwhelming.

mmmm dimsum

Apparently the thing to do on a saturday afternoon is hang out at the enormous shopping center, its airconditioned and has lots of cool things. We had amazing tea at this tea and cake shop and then went to draw cash from an ATM. Then another ATM and finally lucky strike number 3, the 3rd one gave me money. Nearly gave myself a heart attack. Then onto exploring the market as we waited to go watch a movie.

sunglasses

Viven and I found a place to get our toes painted and relaxed for an hour doing that. I decided to go for the honey scrub as well and much to the amusement of the girls and customers squirmed as usual when they massaged and scrubbed my feet. Being ticklish is hazardous.

Finally it was time to go to the movies. We were going mainly because my fondest memory of KL last time was going to the movies and having hot caramel popcorn and ice cold milo, have no idea what the movie was. This time Chauw had treated us to the deluxe movie theater. The cost is about 3 times as much but you can go and relax in the waiting area with massage chairs and free soda and free internet. It was great. But that was nothing, the theater contained about 20 lazy boy chairs. The aircon was a bit extreme but you could rent blankets and pillows. The waitresses brought you your food and drink and you could recline all the way. So this is what it must be like to fly first class…

ahhh this is how to watch a movie

Borneo here I come

Next morning had an early morning flight and Chauw insisted on taking me. In fact the whole family came. Its crazy to know I have such good friends. The next week would consist of scuba diving, my first tropical water diving. Woohoooooo

Great Friends/Family

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Duendin, Lake Tekapo and Christchurch

22nd to 27th of October, 2011

Family

After my super cool flight in the cockpit of the Stewart Island Flights, followed by another long wait at the Information center for a bus, I arrived in Invercargill and looked lost. I was meeting family, my cousin’s dad and his wife. I had never met Marlene and only had a vague memory of Vic, so it proved to be interesting. Luckily there weren’t too many people and so I simply glanced around for 2 other people looking as lost as I was. It didn’t take long. They greeted me like an old friend and I was ushered into the car and told of the weekend plans.

Back at “home” I was shown to what can only be called my “wing” of the house, with a large double bed, a tv room and a bathroom with a MASSIVE tub, that has jets. I know what my plan for the evening is. I had some dinner and we watched the end of the Wales vs Australia game. Then bed time, well first long soak in bath followed by bed.

Dunedin Tour

The next morning after a yummy breakfast, Vic and I headed out for a bit of a tour of the peninsula. We went up to a great view point and he pointed the outline of the volcano crater that created the lake Dunedin now sits around.

Me and Uncle Vic

Lunch and a wander through the amazing botanical gardens completed the morning half of the tour. The Rhodedendrons were spectacular.

Rhodies

Then we drove around the lake to the peninsula and past the only castle in the Southern Hemisphere. We would have gone in but the cost was an arm and a leg so we skipped it. Back home along the water with a stop at the university, very beautiful grounds.

Dunedin Uni

My afternoon involved naps, blog and uploading photos, you can’t get much better than that while on the road.

Lammmmmbbbbb
We had planned to go out for dinner but instead decided to stay in have roast lamb and then watch a movie. I found it delicious but Marlene was disappointed that she hadn’t seasoned it properly, the cook is always the worst critic. The movie we got was 127hrs, about the young man who got trapped while hiking and had to cut off his own hand. The movie was really fantastic and except for 2 spots where we had to skip to the next scene as the DVD was scratched, all was good. Vic and Marlene now swear never to go back to that movie store as this has happened before.

Rugby World Cup 2011 Final

The main plan for sunday, other than packing, again, was to go over to some friends and watch the final of the rugby, New Zealand vs France. This was a repeat of 1987, the last time the All Blacks won the web ellis trophy, so tension was high. Most felt that France did not deserve to be in the final as they had lost 2 of their pool games, including one to Tonga, while NZ had won every game so far. Either way, France has a history of upsetting the Kiwis at vital games, so well people feel pretty assured that they will win, there is always the high possibility that the Frogs will wake up and suddenly wreck the home nations plans of victory.

Excitement was high and we all sat on the edge of our seats as the haka began. During the haka the frenchies got a bit of an attitude and crossed the imaginary line moving closer to the All Blacks, they were later fined for this act. In my opinion other teams should be allowed to face down the challenge.

From the start the game was tense and the frogs seemed to have found their stride as they were playing really well. The All Blacks were battling to keep up the pressure and missed quite a few kicks (to be fair so did the French). Nearing the last 15min the All Blacks were forced to send in a 4th string reserve, essentially the bottom of the barrel, everyone groaned until he converted a penalty that ultimately won the game for the team. I think he should just retire now as its not going to get any better.

While it wasn’t the fantastic win the nation hoped for, and some say the French deserved to win, it was a good tense game and the best team won. Go All Blacks. In any case ifthe French had won everyone would have said they didn’t deserve to even be in the final, so this way, its a win win, the French prove their worth and the Kiwis can stop whining about not having held the trophy for 24yrs.
See song on youtube:
24yrs waiting

Return to Magic

Early the following morning, I said farewell to everyone and Vic drove me to my next pick up point for the Magic Bus. I had two more journeys before the end and only 3more nights in NZ. Where has the time gone. Originally I had planned to go with Magic from Invercargill to Dunedin on their Catlins tour, they were even willing to give me a cheaper price as I was missing the first half. Unfortunately the tour only started in November and I was leaving the country before that.

As we headed out of Dunedin we made a stop at the world’s steepest street. Nope that doesn’t mean we flew to SF, cause it turns out that the steepest street is in this sleepy little University town.

Some of the others ran up but even just standing made you worked muscles you never knew you had. I am pretty certain they must be stranded if there is even a hint of snow or ice.

steepest st


Moeraki Boulders

We were told we were stopping to see large round boulders on the beach. Well that didn’t stimulate the enthusiasm but hey you never know. And they are officially the coolest boulders ever!!! They just seemed to “grow” out of the earth. At first glance you might think they are perfectly round drop stones from a glacier but on closer inspection you see they are not.

Moeraki Boulders


According to Wikipedia:
The Moeraki Boulders are concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone of the Moeraki Formation, from which they have been exhumed by coastal erosion.

The main body of the boulders started forming in what was then marine mud, near the surface of the Paleocene sea floor. This is demonstrated by studies of their composition; specifically the magnesium and iron content, and stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon. Their spherical shape indicates that the source of calcium was mass diffusion, as opposed to fluid flow.

The larger boulders, 2 metres (6 feet) in diameter, are estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow while 10 to 50 metres (30 to 150 feet) of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor above them. After the concretions formed, large cracks known as septaria formed in them. Brown calcite, yellow calcite, and small amounts of dolomite and quartz progressively filled these cracks when a drop in sea level allowed fresh groundwater to flow through the mudstone enclosing them.

Lake Tekapo

We stopped at a couple of other lakes and such and were awestruck by the color of the water. Due to the copper sulfate in the rocks, the water is a stunning milky blue. It quite literally looks like someone has dyed the water. Getting into Lake Tekapo we stop first at a tiny little church on the far side of the “town”, or rather small collection of gift shops and restaurants.

tiny church on lakeside, about 100yrs old

We also visited a statue erected to honor collie dogs, who without their help the sheep farmers would never have been able to run their farms.

Finally we dropped all relative travelers off and made our final stop at Lake Tekapo Hostel. I was put in a 4 bed dorm while the others were put in a 6 bed, but it meant we all had bottom bunks.

Braai/BBQ time

When we stopped in Oamaru our fearless driver had picked up a few things for the BBQ. Only a very hungover scotsman, the driver and me were participating, but with $10 each we got a fair amount of meat and even a small thing of coleslaw.

Dinner time

The hostel had the sweetest cats and every now and then when a rabbit was killed (they are serious pests in New Zealand), the cats were given a treat. In truth I don’t think it knew what to do with it but it was awfully cute watching the reaction.

Weather issues

Had hoped to go horseriding, but the weather was downright foul and so spent most of the day writing and reading. Mailed a parcel and just chilled, always a good day when you can take time out, so it wasn’t a total loss. The walk to town was always fun as the wind blew so hard it nearly took me with it. The Magic bus arrived with a whole huge group all of which had put money in for the BBQ, so they had a downright royal feast, which left the rest of us drooling. They even had icecream. It also brought with it a pair of Dutch who seemed to have gone a bit sour our last meeting and did not seem enthused to see me. Oh well, I wasn’t enthused to see them either. There is always 1, or 2 in this case.

Off to Christchurch

My last morning in Tekapo and my last full day in New Zealand. Can’t believe it has been 2 mths and that tomorrow I would be heading to scuba diving!!!! The hostel cats seemed determined to claim my bags and were soon making themselves quite comfortable and using them as a playground.

Hostel Kitties

Arriving in Christchurch I checked into my hostel, Jailhouse. It used to be an old jail and the rooms are the actual cell. The only thing they had was a 10bed or a 2bed. The twin was double the price but it was my last night so I figured what the hell.

Jailhouse Hostel

Tattoo

I have always wanted a tattoo, but love the Maori designs and spirals (my favorite shape), and always promised myself if I ever got one it would be in New Zealand. Well I had barely 24hrs left in the country so figured I would go check it out. I had picked up a flyer 2mths before during my first visit to Christchurch and now I headed out to have a meeting with an artist. I had checked their website and asked around and they had a very good reputation. I hoped to chat and maybe even get a rough sketch of what the tattoo might look like.

I was super nervous walking to the store, but kept reminding myself of all the insane things I had already done, shaving my head, paragliding and so much more. Have always wanted one so this was the perfect time. At the office (which seemed a little small from what I was expecting with only one chair and artist). The manager, I think, sat to chat with me and just wrote down notes then said come in at 11am in the morning (note I needed to be at the airport at 1pm) and it would be no problem. I felt a little rushed and since we hadn’t even discussed price I asked the question. He immediately launched into how good they were and they charge a minimum of $200 even if it is just a tiny spider tattoo, mine would cost around $350. I gaped a bit and tried to look composed. Definately not in my budget, I was thinking $100 at the most. I didn’t even want to tell him that, as he continued to say how the days of $50 tattoos were over and how they are now works of art. Am sure they are, but $350 is another 2 days diving on the oil rig in Borneo… I asked about a small sketch and he said he would do me a deal and charge me $200 for that. I politely said thanks and I would think about it, stepped outside walked away and then almost gagged at the thought of that.

Was feeling a bit down as all the nerves I had had were now completely let down and I was feeling unbelievably exhausted. I had some korean food for lunch, which perked me up a little and got some passport photos for my Nepal Visa, then walked around before heading back to the hostel and collapsing in a heap. I felt like I had just run a marathon. Amazing how much disappointment can effect you.

Emily from England

After about a 2hr nap my new roommate showed up. I had hoped that I would not get a roommate and could spend my last night in New Zealand curled up in a ball sleeping and reading.

But Emily, who was just starting her trip in New Zealand, and I soon hit it off and were chatting about places she should go and things she should do. Then we headed out for a quiet dinner, not! She had stopped in at this small restaurant the night before and had ended up sharing a bottle of wine with the bartender. He was very happy to see her again and soon we were drinking jam jar cocktails and eating delicious pizza. While most bars have pool, this one had a putting range. It was a fantastic night, and I had a feeling that after 4 jam jars and something called Agua mixed with red bull, I might feel it in the morning. But may as well go out with a bang on your last night.

Emily and me


Agua (not water) and Red Bull shot

Farewell NZ

Last morning, feeling more than slightly rough, both of us consumed copious amounts of water and while Emily headed out to start her tour I headed out to the airport, to hopefully survive my 11hr flight to Malaysia. Why did I break my rule of no flying with a hangover… oh well at least it was fun.

I love NZ and hope to come back, have made some amazing friends and seen amazing places. Thanks to all those who helped me on this leg of my journey.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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