A Travellerspoint blog

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Driving on the wrong side, drunken alumni and ice skating!

sunny -17 °C
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Written: August 30, 2007

It's funny what kind of people I've met and what I've stumbled upon in my travels. Here in Lake Tekapo, I've just spent some time ice skating, the first time in 9 years. I then went to a bonfire beside the beach where there was a party and people viewing the lunar eclipse. It was an awesome party viewing the starts, having wine and making fun of a certain blonde Wisconsin girl. There was then a free talk and viewing through an amateur's telescope on the other stars. I saw Jupiter and 4 of its moons. It reminded me of many times in my childhood when I couldn't sleep late at night and I would look at the stars. I dreamed of being an astronaut or an astronaumer. But most important of all, I looked for a shooting star to make a wish, to ask for a friend.


Dunedin must be the sister city of Kingston. It has a population of roughly 100 000 with 20 000 students at the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand. Walking out of my hostel, I saw a hungover kid with unkept hair reading on a couch with burn marks on the sidewalk opposite a cathedral. What's even more freaky is that the day before I arrived there was a student event called UNDY 500. Basically cars decorated with all kinds of themes and masses of University students getting drunk and rowdy. 64 students were arrested and some are being charged with rioting. Objects were set on fire and beer bottles were thrown at the police in riot gear. The majority of the trouble makers weren't even from Otago but Canterbury-Christchurch. Does that not remind you of Queen's Homecoming 2005?


On my first night in Dunedin, I met 2 drunken Otago Dental School alumni who returned from their faculty's centenary celebration. One of them was from Winnipeg and went to McMaster and then Otago. He then never left New Zealand! After some talk, he invited me to go sailing and put me on a fishing vessel in the Bay of islands if I want. I'm not sure I'll have the time but it's quite an offer and I love drunken alumni!


I rented a car on my 2nd day in Dunedin to go to the Catlins; an untouched and beautiful area in the south east coast of New Zealand South Island. It was a bit strange driving on the left (and wrong) side of the road but other than a momentary lapse of concentration, everything was fine. Saw some seals and beautiful panoramas. Visited the fossilized and petrified forest (which was real sinister looking). We even stopped at Niagara Falls cafe, which was ironic since there was a Niagara Falls close by but this one was only a few centimetres high. Finished the night with a farewell indian dinner and a few drinks with Linda who got a job as a photographer at Coronoet Peak ski slopes in Queenstown.

Then I was off to Lake Tekapo!


After a day in Lake Tekap and a night of drinking under the stars, some poker was played in which I won $4 NZD. We were then off to Christchurch and I realized that this would be my 4th night in Christchurch, which is 3 more than what people usually stay! But I quite liked Christchurch. I had $4 NZD fish and chips, played big sized Chess at Cathedral square with Daan (I won with a King, Knight and Pawn. He only had King left) Then took care of some stuff at the internet cafe. I got a shock when I received an email from Accenture confirming that I was starting on September 10th when I thought I was starting on the 24th. I also couldn't even get a flight out of NZ until the 9th of September nevertheless getting back for the 10th. I replied quickly and forwarded the exchange emails I had with a recruited confirming my start on the 24th. Hopefully everything will work out.


I am now sitting in a cafe across from the coach since it's being looked after by a mechanic due to a rear axle problem. I am on my way to Kaikoura and almost missed my bus this morning again! I woke up at 7:53 AM and my pick-up was at 7:55 AM at the hostel next door. Thankfully my bags were packed and I just picked up everything and rushed out and the bus arrived 30s later! Whew. 5 days in Christchurch would've been too much and even with 3.5 weeks in NZ. I am running out of time!

Last night, I said farewell to Helen, who's on her way back to Newcastle and Daan, who'll be off to Holland. We'd kind of traveled together with Linda since Greymouth/Franz Josef when we roomed together and it was fun to have some familiar faces. Meeting new people is fun but it gets tiring and wearisome asking and answering the same questions.

23 days left!
Sweet as.

Posted by NomadicOne 18:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Aotearoa - New Zealand: I Love This Country

Bruised arse, sex interuption, glacier hiking and more! Written: August 25, 2007

sunny 15 °C
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So I've been procrastinating and not writing as much as I should ahve. But somwhere between exploring classic Christchurch, enjoying the sights of the TranzAlpine train ride, hiking on glaciers or getting a bruised ass snowboarding in Queenstown, I just haven't had much time!


I felt the NZ wniter as soon as I arrived in Christchurch. Stayed at the Charlie B's backpackers hostel for 3 nights which was plenty for the small and quaint city of Christchurch. I was actually only going tostay for 2 but I overslept and missed my shuttle/train on the hop-on-hop-off backpacker "Magic" bus. I avoided extra costs when I got a different operator from Magic who smoothed it out but it still cost me $14 NZD to call Auckland to do so. However, the Sky movies/sports channels at the hostel was more than enough to entertain me. On the extra day, I also tried to look for a mysterious skating rink that could not be found with Deana (Darwin, Australia) and John (Melbourne, Aus.). We walked around for 2 hours before finally giving up.

It was also in Christchurch that I finally experienced smoe friendliness that reminded me of Canada. While walking in town, a mother wich a child smiled at me and said hi while passing by. In my post earlier I had said that I missed that while travelling.


Took the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass. It was a magical ride and the scenery was amaznigly beautiful. I can understand why the Kiwis are so concerned, proud and protective of their land. The beauty of the snow-peaked mountains, crystal clear streams, yellow and green hills and plains rivals the most amazing engineering feats of humanknid.

There wasn't much to do in Greymouth but I had a $5 all-you-can-eat BBQ and it was great. Good sausages and decent salads. Watched "Notting Hill" (there was 5 girls and 2 guys) and "Starsky & Hutch" before going to bed.


New Zealand promotes itself as a land of great beauty and endless opportunities for extreme sport. There's a joke that goes: "Given a mountain, a Kiwi will find 2 ways to get around it, 3 ways to climb it and 2 ways to go over it!"
I believe the joke was actually truth as I was hiking on the the Franz Josef glacier. I went with a half-day hike but I really wanted to do the heli-hike however it cost way too much. The hike was an amazing expereince. It wasn't too cold and there were a lot of rests. Saw a lot of cool sighs and deep blue peaks. Watched Trainspotting with Daan, Linda and Helen before having an early night for an early morning drive towards Queenstown.


I wanted to do 1 day of snowboarding and 1 day of skiing. However, I decided to forgo skiing for handgliding. The day of snowbaording was really fun, educational and painful. The pain to my ass was enhenced by the near dislocation of my shoulders and a small strain in my neck muscle when 6 of us beginners decided to go to the intermediate slope next to the magic carpet. It was going to be our last run and I must've taken 15 falls. Great views thuogh but my ass is more than bruised than that of an inmates after his 1st night in jail!
Everything hurt. However, not enough to deter Daan and I to go get some $5 pasta and some pints of Monteith's beer. But the kitchen closed by the time Helen got back so we had to search somewhere else for dinner.
Enter the Fergburger!
A famous delicious burger reknown from Queenstown. Though it cost $10 NZD, it was quite sumptious though I believe the Pluto burger at JJ' in Kingston is still superior.


Milford Sound, Fiordland.
5 hours to Milford Sound from Queenstown via Te Anau and 5 hours back hurt my ass like no tomorrow. The scenery to and back was beautiful and that of the cruise was stunning. Maurice and I kept taking pics fro each other since we trusted each other's skills. I even drank from a stream that was 99.8% pure water!


I got up early for my paragliding experience. However, upon calling to confirm, I found out that my morning flight was cancelled due to high winds and to check later. However, upon checking in the afternoon the wind conditions hadn't let up and I was leaving Queenstown the next day. Hence, I went luging with Daan and Linda. But instead of taking the gondola up, we decided to save money and hike up instead. I twas a somewhat strenuous hike but totally worth the savings which was used to purchase a nice beef vindaloo dinner and beers later.
The luge race was tight but in te end I won 3 of 5 races. Daan and I watched the Waikato/North Harbour Rugby game and then had the Fergburger again!

It's been good Queenstown!

Posted by NomadicOne 03:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Freaking Out In Brisbane

Cairns, BrisVegas and more adventures!

overcast 18 °C
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Written: August 17, 2007

The realization hit me like lightening; fast, furious and powerful. The Iron Ring that I wore on my little finger of my working hand was not there. In its place, i could see my pale ring tan, a ring of skin smoothed by months of friction due to everyday life and my continuous fidgeting/playing with it. Fear and pani washed over me like a tsunami (was going to use "the flooding of New Orleans" but might still be too soon).

After a moment, my mind started to work hesitantly and confusedly. I tried thniknig about my timeline and scenarios.

  • I am sitting on platform 2 of the Brunswick station waiting for the train to the airport which requries 20 minutes.

  • The train comes every 10-20 minutes.

  • I have 2 hours until takeoff and my path to the hostel can be retraced in 10 minutes. 5 more minutes if i need to get access to my room and search it.

  • Summary: By the tmie I get back on train and get to airport, I could have less than 1 hour left. After experiences in Tokyo and Taipei, I didn't really want to cut it that close again. However, of all my possessions on my trip, nothing was more valuable to me than that Ring. Sure it was stainless steel and could be replaced for $20 (it was really intrinsically worth $2) but the sentimental value is immense. Not only was it a representation of 4 years of studies in Mathematics and Engineering, $60 000 CND in tuition, room and board, it reminded me of the Oath I took to my fellow classmates, my profession and society to act honourably and righteous.
    Heck, I'd miss my flight looking for it.

I picked up my bags and started walking back, retracing my steps and scouring the floor for a stainless steel ring with a unique pattern. Of course, that whole thought process was plagued by emotions such as panic and fear of the loss. It wasn't nutil 10 minutes after my realization, 1/4 of the way back that my mind switched to the proper worknig mode.

Thought Process:
Q: What is the chance of losing it while I was asleep in bed?
A: Didn't check in morning. But should be low. Approx 0.5%, very low. Even though I've been away for 82 days, it was still a miniscule chance.
Q: Was there any actions that might've pulled it off?
A: Retracing actions:
1) Woke up
2) Grabbed sheets and bags
3) Checked out
4) Walked through Chniatown to Brunswick Food Court
5) Bought seafood sub of the day and ate it
6) Tried to look for a beverage that cost under $0.75 at the supermarket since that was all that I had
7) Went to station and platform
8) Stuffed S. America Lonely Planet guidebook to front pocket of backpack

Summary: Action #8 has high probability of moving or removing the Ring from my hand.

Recommended Action: Look in bag.
1) Search small bag.
Result: Nothing. Damn.
2) Open front pocket of big backpack, take out book, put hand in and search.
Result: Nothing, Damnit!
3) Take book and search.
Result: *Clink* The Ring falls out and I grab it and put it back on where it belongs, stroking it like Gollum on his Precioussss
4) Go back to station and wait for next train
5) Relax and decrease heart beat


I spent 2 days in Cairns and 2 days in Brisbane. Cairns is sort of a resort/vacation town in the N.E. Australia, the top of the Gold Coast. It's the launching point for diving the Great barrier Reef. It was significantly warmer than Sydney and full of tourists, especially the Japanese variety. In fact, there was so many signs in Japanese and numerous Japanese employees were hired in shops and restaurants to cater to the huge number of Japanese tourists.

I had planned on diving the reef but after consideration, decided to do that in the future and save money for New Zealand. I ended up just chilling and backing up photos on DVD. Lived cheap by eating 2 meat pies and a sausage roll for $3 AUD and 1L of Ginger beer for lunch.

I met a girl in my room from Montreal who had just stidued in Auckland for 7 months. She was on exchange from McGill and gave me some tips on travelling New Zealand. I swear she must've been the sister of this girl i know at Queen's named Maia.

I then went to BrisVegas (aka Brisbane) and I arrived on a party day, a random public holiday on August 15. While the weather was cooler, it was still agreable to me even with a light drizzle. I explored the downtown CBD area on my first day and had $2.25 dinner composed of 2 discount sushi rolls! Since it was a party day, I saw numerous drunk people by 2 pm and by 7 pm, many groups of partiers were streaming to the bars. Another Canadian traveller and I noticed that most of the women partying in BrisVegas loved to wear these dresses that were essentially silk short bathrobes with low necklines. This was quite a change from Singapore and Zanzibar!


The only notable incident on Day 1 was that I had a convo with a man frmo Taiwan on business. After helping him take a picture, he asked me where I was staying and after I told him I was at a hostel in a room of 8, he offered me a place to sleep since his company had booked a 2 floor loft with 4 rooms. While it might've been good intentions, I thought it sounded sketch and declined the offer politely.

Day 2: Sub of the day, spent half the day trying to reset my Easyweb password, walked about south bank, discount dinner, watched Pulp Fiction, bed.

Well, I am now headed to Christchurch, New Zealand via Auckland!
So long Oz.

Posted by NomadicOne 02:43 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

How To Live Cheap In Sydney

Written: August 13, 2007

sunny -17 °C
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The change from Singapore to Sydney is more than just cultural; it's climatic and economical as well. There are no more cheap food stands or kopitiams get cheap filling foods. There are also no more ghetto beds on rooftops (especially since it is winter in Australia!) However, if you're an experienced budget backpacker like me with time and dedication, you find ways.

1. Accomodations: Sure, nothing's going to beat that $11 SD rooftop bed, but you can still get bargains. Of course, if you're like me, it might mean having your hostel be in King's Cross/Darlinghurst in the middle of the red light district. However, the rooms/beds were clean, location was excellent and staff incredibly friendly. Whats a few invitations to see a stripper or peep show? They're just being friendly!

2. Transportation: Bus? Monorail? Forget it. Walk! It's good exercise for you and a great way to immerse yourself into the local culture (especially that of the pimps in your neighbourhood).

3. Attractions: Why pay when you can do it for cheaper or free? With enough patience and dedication, you can see some gerat sights and get great photos for free. Smoe can be taken from the cheap ferry to/from Manly. But you want to get there early to get the good seats and bring warm clothes. The suckas are the ones who aren't prepared and have to go inside due to the cold halfway through.

4. Food: Sure food is expensive in Australia relatively to Singapore. However, if you go to big food courts like Meyers at 5-6 pm when many need to get rid of food, you can get great deals for $3!
I got rice and 2 dishes for $4 but after some sweet talking, $3 it was!

The cool dry weather has been a delight after spending so much time in heat and humidity. The new pants have come in handy and I can imagine myself maknig trips to Singapore in the future for food/shopping!

Spent my first day in Sydney walking about the Kings Cross/Darlinghurst/Victoria/Potts area.

Day 2: Visited the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and town centre.

Day 3: Went to Manly and walked about the beach front. The place felt like the toruist beach in Cali/L.A. or Malibu. Too many tourists for my liknig.

Overall, I've found Aussies to be very nice. However, I don't think I could settle here in the Gold Coast for the long term. I'd feel too relaxed. This patch of Oz is the perfect land for the hedonistic and unambitious. We'll see about Cairns and Brisbane!

Posted by NomadicOne 17:30 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Singapore: The Fine City

Written: August 10, 2007

sunny 33 °C
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It's strange thinking about Singapore and the ridiculous living conditions on the roof of the Backpackers Cozy Corner when I'm lying comfortably in a Sydney hostel. Though the hostel (Mates Hostel) is in the middle of the Red Light district, the climate and great enthusiasm of the staff is a welcome change from Backpackers Cozy Corner.


I met up with Jill and Robin in the evening after arriving from the airport to Bugis station. We grabbed a chicken schwarma dinner in the Arab quarter and then went to see the Fountain of Wealth. We saw the laser show there and even a marriage proposal! We didn't hear the answer so my guess was that it was a negative! We finished the night by having a Singapore Sling (a type of alcoholic drink that was invented at the hotel we had the drink at) and it was only when the bill came that I realized the drink cost $20 Singapore Dollars ($16 CND) It would be funny later when I bought a pair of jeans for that price.


The next day, Jill and Robin went to the zoo and night safari so I explored the city on my own. I walked down the commercial centres of Orchard Street where I entered the Takashima and Ngee Ann complex. I had lunch there and bought 2 pair of pants for $50 Singapore Dollars, or $32 Canadian! It was strange being able to conduct my transactions in Mandarin and hearing Hakka and Taiwanese dialect being spoken there! I finished off the day by walking along the river, visited Clarke Quay and then Merlion park. It was at the mall/shop arcade across the street from the hostel that I found a shop with great cheap dark leather briefcases/messenger bags. I had gone there to hit some AC after having chicken Roti Prata at the restaurant beneath the hostel. There were numerous shops and restaurants in the plaza and as soon as I saw the simple designs and cheap prices, I was interested. The cute salesgirl might have helped too. Although, I knew my chances in Singapore were limited since earlier during the day, I'd gone up to a girl holding a cup of Big Gulps and said, "Big Gulps eh? Well, see you later!"
On the last day, I went and bought a nice dark leather messenger bag which I'll send back to Canada from Australia. Went to the airport and ate like a king at the employees food court (Thanks for the tip Jaka!) Then I took a flight to Sydney. I planned on writing this entry on the plane but was too busy talking to the Kiwi who saw next to me.
I really have a feeling I'm going to be "stuck" in New Zealand for a long time.
It's been good Singapore!

Posted by NomadicOne 21:52 Archived in Singapore Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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