July 1, 2008
Day 2 in Auckland. I wanted to wake up early (early=9am) but I overslept and woke up at 11am. Hey, cut me some slack. That’s 7am back home in PJ.
After a quick breakfast of two lotus paste pows (Australian-made. Nowhere near as good as Malaysian pows), my aunt drove me out to some Auckland sights. We didn’t go into the city today though, because we didn’t have time. My aunt had taken the whole week except Friday off, so she could entertain me these few days before I went to Dargaville to meet Jin, my friend whom I’m going snowboarding with.
We started with by going to a Taiwanese souvenir shop that didn’t only sell souvenirs; they also sold herbal supplements (including Manuka honey) and lots of winter clothes. I didn’t buy anything, of course. Not this early in my trip.
We also went to Tai Ping which was one of the largest Chinese grocers in this area; they sold a lot of vegetables and fruits as well as groceries targeted at the Chinese community; but quite a number of non-Chinese shoppers bought things there too.
My aunt also showed me where they used to stay; it was one of four units of a linkhouse. It was interesting, because the houses shared the same lot, and the driveway goes down past the four houses into the shared compound; i.e. the four houses don?t face the main road.We then made our way to Cornwall Park, where my aunt showed me all the greenery, and some of the free open-air barbecue pits which anyone can use (but they’d have to bring own food and charcoal). I think this is so cool – to have a public barbecue pit which you can use, and a park to serve as your party venue.
Along the way we saw some council workers planting seedlings in the park. My aunt told me that they plant different flowers according to the season, and when the flowers come in bloom, the park was very beautiful. Right now few of the flowers have bloomed as it was still early in the winter.
My aunt then took me to the top of One Tree Hill (the “one tree” was now but a stump) where the obelisk monument constructed by Sir John Logan Campbell stood. The wind was very biting and chilly, so we didn’t stay too long there.
Because I’ve never tried the flying fox before in my life (how sad is that??) I got to try the children’s one in the playground… twice!!
We also went for ice-cream where I had a double of scoop of cookies n’ cream – my absolute favourite! The ice-creams here in New Zealand are heavenly – rich and creamy. Yes yes I know it’s winter but how can you say no to delicious ice-cream?
The ice-cream store was part of a restaurant next to an Information Center which was opposite Acacia Cottage, so we poked our noses in Acacia Cottage (constructed by Sir John Campbell) before going into the Info Center to take lots of brochures. Interestingly NZ gives out a lot of free road maps and flyers, and many of them come with discount vouchers.
My aunt wanted to show me another huge park called the Domain, but on the way we swung by a public library. NZ really has got some things right. The library was small, but well-equipped; it had a small children’s area, and a section with computers and free Internet access. There were many schoolkids hanging around the library as it was after school hours. What an excellent way to past the time! My aunt told me that there were many libraries here as each zone would have its own library, so although the libraries were small and may not have as many books as a large library would, they were accessible and inviting. The library was so cosy and clean!!
The same appears to be for schools as well. The schools in Auckland were small (about 200-500 students) with small classes (about 20 students per class); each zone had its own school as well. Students here are not very competitive – my cousin Ben who’s 14 years old has tests this whole week and he has not bothered to study at all, and it’s so strange to me, especially since I was a former teacher in Malaysia.
We went to the Domain which was another huge green park, and made a stop at the winter garden. It has two greenhouses: one cold house (with plants that grow in the cold) and a tropical greenhouse (with plants that grow in humid weather). The cold house was abloom with lovely colours… the tropical greenhouse had a manmade lily pond as the centrepiece (with GIGANTIC lily pads) and a lot of green plants. My aunt said in April there were a lot of chillis (yellow/red/orange) in the tropical house, but it seems like they have been replaced by weird things like “midnight horror”.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum was at the Domain too, so we made our way up there. I didn’t go into the museum though, because for one I’m not really a museum person, and for another it was 10 minutes till closing time. Plus I was pretty reluctant to pay $5 donation as the admission fee… call me a cheapskate but I had less than 10 minutes to explore the museum so it’s still not worth it, OK?! I did take many photos outside though.
We then threaded our way back home before it turned dark at 5pm. My aunt made a delicious meal of mashed potatoes, lasagna, pan-fried vegetables and siew gao dumplings. Last night we had fish and chips. I guess it’ll take me a while to get used to the idea of not eating rice, hehe. That just goes to show how inherently Asian I am.
I think I’m also starting to get used to the weather. Yesterday after my arrival, I was sneezing and coughing, and had to take a nap before dinner because I was feeling rather miserable. This morning when I woke up, I was sneezing a little, but as the day wore on, I stopped sneezing and sniffing. Let’s hope this lasts 😀