Thursday, December 30, 2010


just saw it on the late news. the vehicle number plates MCA 1 & MCA 2 have been successfully tendered for RM300k & RM100K respectively, awarded to a private company in Johor.

it's unbelieveable how much one is prepared to lavish on a few pieces of plastic, attached to the front & back of a depreciating asset. wait, can you call something an asset when its value drops by at least 10%  the moment it leaves the showroom, & guaranteed to plummet thereafter? is it not bizarre that the plates themselves could cost more the vehicles?

there must be innumerable ways this amount of money can be put to better use, esp in this season of goodwill. schoolbags for students, meals for the starving, shelters for the destitute, even life-saving surgeries for the needy.

but i doubt if this trend will end anytime soon, whether conditions are austere or not. willing buyer, willing seller, the economists will say. we have short memories & the recent financial turmoils seemed distant.

on another note, congrats to the malaysian football team for winning the AFF cup. they played well & thoroughly deserved the accolades that will surely be proclaimed in this morning's media.

but another public holiday?

sounds more & more like a season of extravagance.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NZ #6 : coromandel's train & waterworks

all this time there was nothing really for the boy to look forward to, so we decided to spend 2 nites in whitianga in the coromandel peninsula (see map of north island in previous post) to give him a treat.

the 1st stop was the only narrow-gauge railway train still operational in NZ. (narrow gauge of 15ins allows for sharper curves)
**image from Driving Creek Railways website : barry himself driving the train**

actual view from inside the train.

this train/tracks were originally built by teacher-turned-potter barry brickell to transport clay from volcanic rocks from the hills to his pottery, & also gold when it was discovered here. part of the hill is fortified with beer bottles consumed by the workers during construction of the railway.

because the hill is too steep for train to ascend directly, the rail has several reversal points where the train changes direction in a zig-zag manner upwards.
one of the 5 reversal points.....

and the same reversal point from another view

the top station is sometimes called the Eyeful Tower (get it?) & this is the view.....

the Driving Creek Railways has become such an attraction that nowadays it carries more tourists than raw materials.

the next stop is the Waterworks theme park. it's not a theme park by way of rides, games & parades, but rather an educational park explaining the origins, uses & conservation of water.

like how water is used to drive a wheel to operate farm machines....

like how to operate a water pump like the old days...

but it's not like it's just all learning & no play. there are other activities to keep the kids happy....

trying to negotiate loops with a steady hand

doing a flying-fox-type swing
ET go home...incidentally, both the kids' initials are the same - ET.
but this is definitely their favourite.....firing water cannons

tomorrow, we go on our last leg of the vacation - hobbiton & lake roturua.

Friday, December 24, 2010

just the way you are

i heard this song the radio today. it's been playing for some months now, but when it came on air this morning, it sets me thinking. it's bruno marrs' just the way you are. the chorus goes like this....

When I see your face,
There's not a thing that I would change,
Cause you're amazing,
Just the way you are.

And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile,
Cause girl you're amazing,
Just the way you are.

this reminds me of the other song by billy joel, similarly titled just the way you are :

I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.

the coincidence is that both these songwriters are guys & this relates well with the observation that when a man marries, he expects the wife to remain the way she is (but often she doesn't!) & when a woman marries, she expects the hubby to change (but he, too, often doesn't!!!).

i first met my wife on christmas day 24 years ago. looking back, she's definitely changed over the years, more so over the last decade or so. i can't pinpoint the reason for the change, but it's possible that's just the way she actually is, only that i was too much in love to notice.

but i did promise that i'd love her, for better or for worse, & this vow is still binding. happy anniversary, dear & beloved wife, & blessed christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NZ #5 : 90-mile beach & cape reinga

just to put things in perspective, this is the north island...

& this is the top half...

from paihia, we drove northeastwards pass kaitia towards cape reinga. on the eastern coast of this peninsula is the so-called 90-mile beach, although it's actually 60 miles long.
it's a white sand beach & bus/4-wheel drive tours go on the whole length of the beach.

cars are discouraged from doing this as there's a risk they may get stuck in the sand.

we drove up to the firm sand & took a few shots. here, you can see tyre tracks in the foreground where vehicles have travelled before us. 

then went on our way northwards to cape reinga. it's a hilly road & can give one the impression that the car will go off the cliff.

after parking the car, a short winding path leads to the lighthouse.

"reinga" in maori means "underworld" & refers to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead leap off the cliff to enter the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki-a-nui.

they also believe that where the warm tasman sea meets the cold pacific ocean, called "the meeting place", waves of unsettled waters seen off the cape...

.....mark the union of a male & female sea, the whirlpools where the currents clash signifying new life.(a good illustration for our educators to teach sex reproductive education, don't you think?)

we thought we would do sandboarding on the way back but it was just too warm & dry, & the kids didn't think getting sand all over was a good idea.

so we gave it a miss.

tomorrow, we check-out & head south for the coromandel peninsula - for some kiddy attraction. (see map, black arrow)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NZ #4 : whangarei & paihia

whangarei (pronounced fang-aray) wasn't a planned stop. we just wanted to refuel & happened to pass by the tourist information centre. we were told there was a waterfall & a few decent beaches nearby. the lady was really friendly - providing local maps & tips. you know NZ is serious about tourism because these centres are open 7 days a week, & up to 8pm on weekends.

this wasn't a spectacular waterfall but i took the opportunity to try out the new camera.

my untrained eyes couldn't really differentiate if this was taken with a good camera or not. maybe it's because i'm just a beginner.

at the nearby matapouri beach, the waves were moderately strong. & the kids really enjoyed running with them.

there was a little boy playing by the beach & as i was snapping away, he approached me, curious at what i was doing. i couldn't help posting this. his mother, a local resident, says the beach is awesome all through the year.

by the time we reached paihia, 200km north of auckland, it was already 6pm but the day was still bright. we checked into our pre-booked 2-bedroomed apartment with full kitchen facilities, before checking out the town to get groceries. the tourist info centre was still opened.

finally, settled in for a self-prepared dinner of pizza, garlic bread, meat pies, coleslaw & soup.

tomorrow, we go on the 90-mile beach.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NZ #3: start of the road trip

i called up several car rentals in auckland a day before the road trip & settled for a family sedan. this one offered free pick-up & drop-off as part of their service. when i went to collect the car, it was a 7-yr-old nissan sunny, which looked more like a sentra. after driving for 7 days & 2000km in it, it turned out to be a well-maintained set of wheels. without fail, whether cold or not, the engine roared to life with just one turn of the ignition. everytime.

we drove north towards whangarei. we had to pass thru a tunnel on the only tolled road in the north island. they don't have barriers or toll booths like in m'sia. we pass thru like everyone else & we can choose to pay at a machine by a rest area or even pay online. the vehicles are caught on camera & we have 5 days to pay the toll. how convenient is that??

besides bungy jump, you know you are in NZ when you see this...

together with sheep, they are estimated to number 30m, compared to 4m people.

along the way, we dropped by a honey factory. the boy was fascinated by the live bees behind a glass screen....

we thought the manuka honey was reasonably priced. NZD12.95 for a 500g bottle.
in fact, we stopped by this same shop on the return trip to get more honey & have something we didn't try the 1st time....
macadamia honey ice-cream.

Friday, December 17, 2010

NZ #2: city of sails

that's what they call auckland. because there's a harbour with lots of boats.

other than that, it's much like any other. the main street is preparing for christmas,

there are street performers....

& people are quite friendly.

but i find it refreshing that people can just proclaim the Word openly on the streets.....

& you definitely know you are in NZ because this is bungy country. like you get on this 3-seater...

which is attached to 2 elastic ropes...

then, they release the catch & it's up, up & away....

and no, i didn't.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NZ #1: the vacation that almost wasn't

this is what i did in preparation:

1) bought air-tickets 10 months early - there was a MAS promotion & we grabbed them, literally!

2) having ample time before the trip, we changed currency whenever the rate was favourable.

3) asked around/checked blogs on travel tips; since this was going to be free & easy, i had to plan the destinations & duration of stay within the time-frame of the vacation.

4) check-out the accomodation & car rental rates for best offer. i paid online for the apartment on the 1st & last day of the trip. for the rest, i booked as i went along so that our travel route can remain flexible. in NZ itself, the free AA accomodation guide was fantastic & most have freephone numbers.

5) since i was going to drive, made sure my m'sian driving licence was valid & my own GPS was loaded with NZ maps. you could rent a GPS with the car rental for NZD12 a day, but why pay extra?

6) bought travel insurance  for a hundred ringgit plus per family, just to cover the unexpected.

7) as it was summer, brought sunscreen lotion & shades.

this is what i should have done:

1) as peak tourist period only starts in 2nd half of december, after the school term ends, should have gone to car rental personally to choose the vehicle. instead, i booked thru the phone & they could only confirm the class of car, eg. family sedan, either nissan or toyota. i had expected a toyota corolla but got a nissan sentra instead. although it was a 7-yr car, it was very well-maintained. they even offered free pick-up & drop-off within the city.

2) i underestimated the size of NZ. although i had not planned on going to south island, the north island was still huge!! we covered 2000km within 7 days & even then, only visited half of the island. in the end, 3 days in auckland was probably a day too many.

finally, we almost have to cancel. 3 days before we were due to leave, we were told one of the girls in the boy's cello class had chicken pox. a day before departure, the boy had a slight fever & he developed little skin lesions over his neck. without hesitation, i started him on zovirax, just in case it's early chicken pox. the lesions weren't typical pox & besides, i think he already had chicken pox before.

our options were either we cancelled the trip or i go with the daughter while the wife stay back with the boy.

as it turned out, he got better the next day & the skin lesions, whatever they were, subsided. i had planned to complete the 5-day course of zovirax anyway except that, while filling out the arrival forms on the plane, there was a question on bringing in medicines into NZ. in case i needed to explain it & the custom people got overly suspicious about harbouring dangerous viruses, i decided to discard the zovirax. as it turned out, those guys didn't even bothered looking into the bag.

NZ, here we come.....

**image : a crimson flower from the pohutukawa tree aka NZ christmas tree because the flowers tend to blossom in dec**

Sunday, December 05, 2010


now, that's one name you'll almost never hear about in NZ. it's a little sea-side town on the north-east of the north island. it's a starting point for those planning for the 90-mile beach.

the view is great, the apartment is marvellous.

tomorrow we go on a drive to the 90-mile beach. at the end of this is cape reinga, where the waters of the tasman sea & pacific ocean meet.

should be fun.

PS wish you all were here!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


we're off for our year-end vacation & will be back on 12th dec.

think hobbits.