New Zealand Chapter: Auckland

It’s been months since I last went out of Malaysia for a vacation and this time, I chose somewhere closer to the South Pole: New Zealand!

My first stop was Auckland. For the next 4 days here I stayed in James Allen‘s apartment. The last time I met James was in Fukushima, Japan in 2008.

James, his wife Yuko and their kid Hanna moved here in April after the unfortunate tsunami and earthquake disaster hit Japan, not to mention the radiation leak in Fukushima that occurred as a result.

James had been really hospitable and generous while I was here; his apartment is smack dabbed in the middle of the city and most attractions were within walking distance. He also introduced me to some of the people he’s been working with on some really awesome Internet projects.

And guess who else I met?

I also met up with Delia while I was here! She and her sister Dulcie moved to New Zealand to further their studies since February this year. (I would later meet Dulcie in Dunedin)

So I finally caught up with Del months later. Meeting her was surprisingly convenient as her student’s apartment was about 15 minutes walk away; practically Queen Street connects everything here. LOL

But we sure did heck a lot of walking to find the Auckland Harbour Bridge! A nice gentleman offered to drop us there on the way. 🙂

We walked up and down the Harbour Bridge here. 🙂 It’s however comparably smaller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Saw some people doing the bungee jumps; would had tried but cold weather really scared me let alone dipping into the freezing waters.

But hey, I did jump off the Auckland Skytower!

192 meters. Falling down at the acceleration of 85 km an hour. Totally exhilarating? Check this video out:

Too bad I couldn’t join any airsoft skirmishes, I must had picked the wrong weekend to come. The rugby world cup was going on and the All Blacks were to compete against the French team on Saturday. The weekend came to life and when the All Blacks won, the streets were high!

Even though there’s just slightly over a million population here in Auckland (4 million + overall in NZ) night life is big here over the weekends.

I made full use of my last day in Auckland by visiting as many as 3 tourist attractions on my own. First stop was the Auckland Museum.

Plenty of amazing relics, artifacts and things from the past. Learned the background of New Zealand and how it came about. Undeniably of course, my favorite wings within the museums are the WWI and WWII wings.

Next stop was the Auckland Zoo.

The zoo is huge, and I mean like REALLY HUGE! It was spring so some animals – notably the turtles – had been moved elsewhere. Some parts of the zoo were under renovation. Still, there was plenty to see.

Near the Auckland Zoo is MOTAT – Museum of Transport and Technology. Since it’s just a stone’s throw away, I went to check it out before it closes.

Visiting museums today really felt like going back in time. So I went through exhibits after exhibits, vehicles and aviators that blast from the past all the way through fairly recent history.

After spending a nice 4 days in Auckland, I caught the flight to the next destination further down south: Dunedin!

To Be Continued…

10 Years Ago Today

I was 15 then. It was around midnight when a school friend ICQ’ed and told me to quickly check out the news on CNN. So I rushed downstairs to the TV and see what was happening on the other side of the world.

Footages replayed over and over again on two planes being crashed into the twin towers while new information was being relayed through the scrolling marquee. I remember one of them was exactly “Osama bin Laden: I had nothing to do with it”

By now my whole family woke up to see the bad news happening LIVE.

New photos. New footages including the Pentagon on fire this time. And even more footages taken at the vicinity of the towers which will later be known as Ground Zero. People running away from the collapsing towers. People FALLING from them.

I didn’t know what was really happening except it was truly terrible. Little did I know we were all witness to something that would later go down into history of the world.

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago today?

Gym Training 6 Months Later

A quick update on my progress…

It’s been nearly 6 months since I’ve started my training by my personal fitness trainer, Koay Qunling. On the average I train 3 times a week and I’ve not missed a substantial part of the training at all; weeks that I trained twice I would make up the following by training 4 times.

The routines were changed slightly every now and then as seen fit, but generally each training day focuses on a specific body part: chest / back / triceps, legs, and shoulders & biceps.

In the latest measurement, I’ve successfully dropped by body fat percentage to 16.4%! It was 17.2% just one month ago, and before I started my training my body fat level was flirting with the danger of touching nearly 19%. (that’s unhealthy!)

This time’s fat loss came at the expense of 500g of muscle mass, however in the grand scheme of things I’ve definitely put on more than 3 kilos of muscles since the time I started my training while my overall body weight remained consistent. This time I weigh 61.0 KG, just a month ago it was 61.4 KG.

(Back in November 2010 I weigh 64.1 KG – not good because for a long time since high school days I weigh anywhere between 56 – 59 KG!)

Overall appearance right now, my muscles had regressed a bit also owing to dieting and being more selective with my meals. Ultimately, I’m still lean and mean. 😉 In many ways I’m thankful that genetic wise, I’m having it easier than a fat guy in a hurry to cut off dozens of pounds. I don’t have much body fats to lose to begin with.

I figure this would be the best time to put my BEFORE and AFTER photo really. While I can post my results as of now, I realized I’ve accidentally deleted my BEFORE photos that were taken back in November last year… damn!

Seriously, that would have made posting my current photo more meaningful. It would had been really awesome and feel good to see I lost a lot of that flabs around the tummy and how the chest and triceps hardened since!

Oh well. Right now, training is going another notch up. Weights are still going up with each set I take in, the reps are anywhere from 10 to 20 each, and running the treadmill in between is now 60 seconds instead of 30. This is where I burnt most of my body fats, in spite of it being one of my most hated workouts, the other being dead lift!

Until the next gym training results…

Tandem Skydiving in Udon Thani

11th through 14th August. Packed my bags, left my work behind and went on a short vacation in Udon Thani, Thailand. Spent a few days in near seclusion from civilization.

It was a great couple of days cycling in the rurals and relaxing at the hangar. But the main highlight? I came here for another skydiving feat.

This is experience you can’t buy back with money.

Absolutely Freaky Fishy (Ghost Story?)

I don’t know where to start. And I’m not certain if we’ve seen the end of it yet. Two of my little turtles are missing now and none of us could explain how a stray fish appeared, disappeared and reappeared in our backyard. The electricity throughout the neighborhood was out for hours and of all times, this happened.

Feels like I’m in my own episode of X-Files. Here’s what happened…

It’s been at least two months since the last time I came back to Johor to see Mom and Ashley. And 3 nights ago on 1st August, the electricity throughout the neighborhood was out and we were in pitch darkness by surprise.

We lit candles inside and outside the house. I asked Mom how often this happens and she recalled this is the second time it ever happened; first time it happened was last year.

It was the start of the Ramadhan fasting season and the neighborhood security guard was not around. Call me paranoid but I felt it all to be too good a coincidence. So vigilantly, I set up my powerful flashlights outside the now dark backyard.

For more than an hour, I sat outside in the backyard, surfing on my Iphone. When I entered the house for a few minutes, this was when the first freaky thing happened: Ashley found a fish in the drain… still alive! She called me out and in a hurry, I went to check it out too.

I was surprised but I quickly fetched the fish net, scooped it up and put it in our grotto to save it. It was flopping around and it took a bit of effort to scoop it up. It was upside down when I put it into the pond.

Ashley and I turned to each other, and we looked around. How the heck did a fish get there??

It’s not one of ours (it looks like your average fish you’d see in a morning market).

No one else could have thrown it there (we stay in a corner house and we have a clear view of anyone or any car passing by).

And it’s definitely not the work of a stray animal (there are no cats in my area and even if so, the fish would have been dead). I must add that when we found the fish, it was dry.

What transpired next was further unexplainable: in the less than a minute we both looked away from the grotto, we came back only to find that fish disappeared!

NOW, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY F-R-E-A-K-Y. We turned off the valve to the little fountain to have a clearer view on inside the grotto, and we couldn’t find the fish at all… it just VANISHED!

We looked around the pond as maybe it jumped out. But it was nowhere to be seen. Again that’s highly unlikely – no fish or turtle are strong enough to jump out of the grotto, let alone a dying fish. The night was quiet and still and we would have heard it anyway.

Was there an intruder in the house compound? No, our dog Auwlithe would had been the first to know.

I was already uneasy with the whole episode that just transpired in the window of time when the electricity is out.

While Mom and Ashley had to go to sleep because they have to start their next day early, I remained outside and highly alert, with a baton resting by my side… just in case. I already had a bad feeling about this whole shit.

I also paced back and forth the grotto and backyard in search of the fish that disappeared without a trace. The electricity came back at 1 in the morning and with all the lights in the backyard on, I still found nothing. I went to sleep.

The next morning when the maids came over to clean the house, they found the fish in the backyard, near the drain where we first found it – it was already DEAD and teeming with flies.

I was shocked again. I spent most of the previous night in the backyard and didn’t find it, and mysteriously it reappeared there! I text Ashley to let her know before I disposed it into the bin. All of us were still surprised and could not explain it.

Then another shit happened: later that evening, I fed my turtles in the grotto as usual. But when I counted my turtles, I noted that one of my baby turtles was missing!

I love my turtles a lot and of course, I panicked. I quickly scanned the backyard again and couldn’t find it.

There’s absolutely NO WAY it could leave the grotto (even the big ones couldn’t do that).

Work of a stray animal? Nope, there are no cats in my area. And red ear sliders are known to be deceptively fast when approached by a prey as they slide into the water.

Or did someone intrude the house compound deliberately? Nonsense. Auwlithe is a trusted guard of the house. And if there was a thief, he wouldn’t settle for stealing just one baby turtle.

I was growing distraught about the whole episode. I was to drive to PJ that night and as I was driving home, I already felt in my guts that my next baby turtle could be the next to go.

And… I was right.

Just this evening, my sister phoned in to inform me the next baby turtle is now missing without a trace! The other turtles seemed unharmed or untouched, probably because they are big. Our grotto fishes are fine too, and their numbers are correct.

So some random fish appeared, disappeared and reappeared in my backyard. And then I have two baby turtles that vanished without a trace from the grotto. And we have no explanation as to how it happened.

I’m feeling angry right now and probably the worst part is, I have no idea what or who is doing all these. And I’m not certain that the episode is over yet.