New Zealand Diaries #3 – South Island Part 1

My 15-day South Island Trip was a blast! Driving 2543km around South Island, I’ve seen the best scenery, ate the best food, met the best people, and experienced the best I can ever imagine. From Wellington to Picton, Nelson to Cheviot, Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook, and Queenstown back to Wellington again, there are just too many to share with you.

In Part 1 of the series,  check out Wellington, Marlborough Sounds and Picton, with recommendations and personal tips! Click the link here to see the PDF file for a better reading experience supersonts_newzealand_1 .

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-Jee-

New Zealand Diaries #2 – Picton & Cheviot

An unexpected journey

A journey becomes unforgettable when you least expect it to be. If you are a free-spirited traveller like I am, New Zealand, a country vast and limitless, is the perfect location for you to set yourself free. The beauty of New Zealand does not end with its natural landscapes, but continues to flow through its people: well-travelled, open-minded, and a true representation of a global citizen.

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One might think that Picton and Cheviot, being such small towns in the South Island, will be a boring place to skip past in your itinerary. But thanks to the extremely hospitable hosts, not only were these my best travel experiences yet, I left New Zealand making friends that I never thought I would.

Boats out!

Waking up in Picton with nothing planned for the day, our host Tim invites us to a fishing trip with his friend out along Cook Strait in the Marlborough Sounds. With the sun as a warm companion, the autumn winds didn’t seem so chilly after all. While Tim geared up in his diving suit to catch some huge lobsters, we stayed on the boat to learn the techniques to fishing well with his friend.

It was 4 hours well spent with glistening emerald waters and lusciously green knolls as the background. As socially responsible individuals, we caught 8 fishes and 6 crayfish, each measuring more than 33cm length for the fishes and 60mm width for the latter. These are the official guidelines from the Ministry for Primary Industries, in maintaining the balance in the marine ecosystem.

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As if catching seafood wasn’t exciting enough, eating fresh lobsters cooked to perfection tops it all up. The tender yet bouncy meat oozes its naturally sweet flavours after every bite. I volunteered to cook some Asian style food – ginger and spring onion blue cod, egg fried rice, and a chilli French beans stir-fry – with thanks to the ingredients bought by his wife, Anne.

Gathering for dinner with Anne and Tim at the dining table, it felt like we were truly embraced into the family. Experiences like these were costless but truly priceless.

Chateau de Cheviot

While most of us live in houses built by construction companies, our host Ellis decided to build a house he could truly call his own 12 years ago. A mixture of cement, wood and natural materials make up this incredible living space he proudly calls ‘The Tree House’. An adventurer at heart, Ellis is a true representation of hard work, perseverance and positivity.

Coincidentally, Ellis and his partner Sanna were embarking on a new treehouse project and invited us to be a part of it. With no agenda for the day, we agreed to be builders of the day, albeit with the wrong attire. From climbing up trees to measure the appropriate heights of the wooden pillars, sawing planks and mixing cement, it was a full-body workout without a doubt. But I never thought being a part of this rustic construction will bring about so much inspiration and accomplishment.

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The morning fog weaves through the hills and the trees, and I couldn’t resist walking out to the backyard barefooted just to feel in sync with nature while witnessing this dramatic entrance into a brand-new day. Approaching mid-day, the sun takes over and warms up the autumn temperatures. Then it was lunch with Sanna and Ellis talking about our passion for travel, and their pet dog lazing and basking in the sun. At night, Ellis brings us out again to show us the constellations above us, identifying certain star signs and the milky way. At the end of the day, I really wanted to stop the alarm clock so I will never have to wake up from this dream.

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Do we really need to shut the doors on people all the time?

Let me describe a very typical day that happens to us too often – you walk into the lift with a few others and we are headed to different levels. Someone leaves the 5th floor and immediately the person nearest to the lift buttons hits the ‘Door Close’ button almost instantaneously.

I’m not pointing my fingers at anyone because I am honestly guilty of showing signs of impatience on the poor lift too. And it has finally been proven that the ‘Door Close’ button is feeding our need for control and efficiency. A recent New York Times article revealed that most of these buttons are in fact placebo buttons that do not actually work since a major lift redesign in the 1990s.

Seeing this phenomenon happening among city dwellers of the world, it makes me think whether or not we should remove this ‘Door Close’ button, considering that it is a catalyst for encouraging even greater impatience in our community. Lift doors open for 10 seconds on average, each lift can hold the weight of about 15 people, while there is only that many levels the lift could arrive at. Are we really that rushed for time, for that few seconds that do not even add up to a minute?

We have to admit that we get trapped inside a ticking stopwatch most of the time – getting frustrated over train delays, over a long queue at our favourite coffee place, or even at the person in front of you who walks too slowly… What if we slow down, just a little bit, and enjoy that few seconds of delay?

I vividly remember my recent trip to Seoul, where my subconscious behaviour led me to reach for the ‘Door Close’ button and to my surprise it wasn’t there. The lift had only the ‘Door Open’ button and I quickly retreated my hands into my pockets and waited for the doors to close on automation.

After spending a few days there, I would go all the way inside the lift instead of assuming the role of the ‘Button Presser’ as I always would. That also gave me the chance to greet strangers with a simple ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’.

Living in a fast-paced society like Singapore where ‘time is money’, perhaps we should train ourselves to be more patient and forgiving. By removing something so trivial in our lives, it might just motivate us to pay more attention to the ‘Door Open’ button – allowing people to enter the lift. No more shutting people at the door, literally.

Supermarket Fashions: Not For Sale

Who’s ready for some marketing? Personal marketing I mean. On many grounds, aren’t we similar to supermarket displays where the best products get sold out faster than others? Or do we have to discount ourselves to be whisked off the shelves?

I guess there isn’t a textbook formula for a successful marketing campaign. Sometimes it just happens that you are the most popular one at the moment. But if you’re not, I’m sure one day you will end up in the hands of a rightful customer.

I used to remember a career consultant saying that it is what a candidate can provide for the consumer, but how can us human beings be for sale?

I wish for the newcomers to challenge the status quo; one day we will not be subjected as a commodity, but a human being living his passion every single day.

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The Last Chance – Iconic Singapore Buildings

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We’ve heard of Rochor Centre and Dakota Crescent giving way to new buildings, but just before they are gone for good (maybe not), take your last chance to head down and leave photographic memories for future sake! I present to you the must-visit places for your phototaking adventures.

Dakota Crescent

Oddly enough, I had been seriously addicted to a Channel 8 drama – Hero – which was set in one of the oldest estates in Singapore – Dakota Crescent. While I am still brooding over the fact that the drama has ended, I am glad to have made a trip down to take photos of the old-school structures there.

Dakota used to be part of the defunct Kallang Airport, and hence the road name – Old Airport Road. And the estate got its name from a tragic episode involving an airplane named Dakota. But the real story lies in the off-white paints and brown bricks, soaked in vintage vibes.

Humans are indeed guilty of not treasuring the things around them – I am a culprit of this. Visited Tian Kee and Old Airport Road food centre several times but never gave another look at the estate. But this trip down memory lane is definitely one that you have to experience for yourself before it is torn down for good.

Rochor Centre

How can we forget soon-to-be historic Rochor Centre’s iconic HDB flats which were vibrantly coloured in yellow, blue, green and red. All tenants have supposedly moved out, leaving the area frighteningly quiet, contrasting itself from the once bustling market downstairs.

A wreak of odour suffocates you along the staircases up to the common areas where you get the best view of the buildings. Migrant workers were seen dismantling the refrigerators left behind in the empty households, possibly finding gold or silver conductors for extra moolah. Such a poignant scene I remember.

Getting the best view involves climbing up to high spaces – that is if you do not own a drone. We looked around and found a vertical ladder at the fitness corner. Resting on top of the ladder to have your photo taken (Thanks Alexia) really makes you feel like you have no more regrets.

If you’ve always had the idea of heading down to these places, then better materialise them fast!

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