Photos: Rotorua & Taupo (North Island, New Zealand)

We were in NZ for 10 days, plenty of time to do some sightseeing outside Auckland. We went south of the city, towards the areas where Rotorua and Taupo are located. On the way to Rotorua, we passed through a town called Cambridge. Very nice place, we stopped at a well-known arts and crafts shop called the Cambridge Country Store, got lots of souvenirs, hehe. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the place, the building itself was quite interesting and it was called "The Pink Church".

When we reached Rotorua, the first place we stopped was Lake Rotorua (Photo 1), formed from the crater of a volcano and is the second largest lake in the North Island. There's an island called Mokoia Island at the centre of the lake (you can see it in the distance in Photo 1). It has a famous Maori legend attached to it, which is about two lovers called Hinemoa and Tutanekai - you can read about it here.

Not far from the lake is the geothermal Maori village of Whakarewarewa. The guy in the first photo with my parents was our guide around the village. The next two photos are of traditional Maori dances, the second being the well-known war dance form called haka. The following four photos show some of the natural geothermal formations, including the active geysers, mud pools and Ngararatuatara hot spring (my favourite part of the whole place, hehe). The latter is actually called a cooking pool, since they actually use it for that purpose. This pool as well as the mud pools are of temperatures between 100-200 degrees Celcius! O.O You definitely do not want to fall into them! And the last two photos are of the meeting house (wharenui) located on the marae (a sacred enclosed area used as a communal ceremonial centre for the Maori tribes). Every Maori tribal village has a marae. The guide told us a lot of the Maori culture, which I found it extremely interesting.

We left the village to head to Taupo, where lake Taupo is located. Before we reached our destination, we stopped by Huka Falls, a set of waterfalls on Waikato River (which drains Lake Taupo). The photos really don't do them justice, I think I would describe them as majestic, hehe.

Unfortunately, when we reached Taupo, the weather wasn't great for taking photos, so I have none to post - sorry! :( Just a bit of info, Lake Taupo is another lake created from a volcanic crater (more correctly a caldera) and it is the largest lake in NZ by surface area!

Photos: Auckland (North Island, New Zealand)

Okay, I'm finally posting photos from my New Zealand (NZ) holiday last August. Despite my horrible cold and cough, I still managed to do some sightseeing with my parents, thank goodness! I'll be putting up the photos over four posts, according to the areas we visited. So this post will be about Auckland, the largest urban area in NZ, located on the North Island. The reason we went to NZ was to visit the host family (the Sheahans) my dad stayed with while he was studying there about 40 years ago. And this is the first time he's met up with them since that time. He lost contact with them after he left the country, and was only able to find them with the help of the NZ online yellow pages. Ah, the wonders of modern technology, especially the interweb! ;D

Anyway, we met up with the Sheahans twice, once for dinner (Photo 1) at Pat's and Desiree's apartment (Pat and Desiree are the parents of the host family), which overlooks the Domain (one of the largest park in the city) and then for lunch (Photo 2) at the restaurant (Hammerheads Seafood Restaurant and Bar - an award-winning restaurant located on Tamaki Drive) where Paula (Desiree's daughter) works as a manager. Desiree is the lady with glasses sitting next to my mum in Photo 2 and Paula is the lady wearing black! I'm going to take this opportunity again to thank the Sheahans for their wonderful hospitality!!! THANK-YOU VERY MUCH!!! :D

The rest of the photos are of various landmarks of Auckland. Photo 3 shows Sky Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere and this year, it's 10 years old! :D We were actually living almost next to this structure. This photo was taken from Queen Street, the main street of the city. Photos 4 and 5 just show the tower in the distance, the first taken from Tamaki Drive and the latter from Mount Eden. Mount Eden is a volcanic cone with a grassy crater (Photo 6), which is the highest natural point in Auckland. You really have to be there to realise how extraordinary this site is. You can take a 360-degree view of Auckland from Mount Eden, which is why you can see One Tree Hill in the distance in Photo 7. There is no longer a tree on this other volcanic cone, instead an obelisk has replaced it. Finally, Photo 8 is of part of the circular disc located on Mount Eden, which marks the direction and distance of principal cities from that point - I took a photo of the part that indicates the direction and distance (17748 km) of Berlin, hehe.

So that's it for my photos of Auckland. I actually didn't see as much of the city as I would have liked due to my bad health. Ah, well, it's an excuse for me to visit again, hehe! ;D


Occasion: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Google!!!

So since Google has done a lot for me, like amazing internet searches, providing me with e-mail accounts for my personal use as well as college (yes, Trinity College Dublin is the first university to use the Google interface for their college e-mailing system - so we get to keep our college e-mail addresses!!!), my blog, the list is endless, I feel that I should wish Google "Happy Birthday" on its 9th year today!

(image is under the Google copyright)

Wonder what their plan is for their 10th b'day! ;D


I feel special!

For the first time in my life, I flew first-class. It was on our return flight from Singapore to Frankfurt late August! We flew Singapore Airlines (SIA), one of the best airlines in the world (god, that sounds like a Carlsberg ad!), in my opinion - so first-class on their flights are jaw-droppingly amazing! *.* Anyway, I promised people I'd take photos (though I did feel a little "sakai" doing it, haha!).

Photo #1 - My mum and dad at their seats - gives you an idea of the width of each seat. There are only 4 seats in one row (I had the window seat all to myself, haha!) and 2 rows in the whole first-class section.

Photo #2 - That's the entertainment system - huge, isn't it! Not only do you get the usual programs like movies, music and games, but you also get word processing programs on it (for business people, I guess). Of course, they do become faulty, whatever class you're in, but SIA has a policy of compensating ppl with duty-free vouchers, niccccee!

Photo #3 and #4 - These show the amount of storage space each seat provides as well as the huge leg-room. The whole seat can be made up into a bed, I slept so well, I missed my dinner! :(

I tell you, it's tough to go back to flying economy after experiencing first-class! Alas, since I'm not rich (yet, haha!), I doubt I'll be flying first-class for a long while! [sigh]


Movie: The Golden Compass

Okay, I'm chatting to June at the moment on gmail when the topic of movies came up - one of the films I'm dying to watch is "The Golden Compass", out on 7th December 2007! Anyway, on the official website (you can view it here), there's a quiz under the Daemons section, where you can find out what your daemon is - so June and I decided to do the test. Hehe, I was a little disappointed with mine - why? Because it's a dog - a DOG, of all things - an animal which I can't touch but don't actually dislike. So I shall be open-minded about this, and post it on my blog. The code actually gives an interactive display which allows people I know a chance to see if the personality of this Whippet daemon (named Cleon) is like mine - if you have time, why don't you give me your input (and June too - she posted hers on her blog!) and also, do the test so you can figure out what daemon is yours! Vielen Dank!

ps: when people start adding their input, the daemon may keep changing - this goes on for 12 days and then, the final daemon form will be decided on! I'm so much happier with my wolf form - that's the second form my daemon has morphed into. I wonder what my daemon will end up as!


Home Sweet Home?

As you know, I was not in the best of health during my holidays back in Brunei - yeah, such bad luck! I didn't get to do the things I wanted and meet the people I wanted. Of the friends that I usually make a point to meet (you know who you are!) when back home, I actually only managed to see two friends (Meela & June)! Completely my fault, really - when I'm sick, I don't make much of an effort and it doesn't help when I lack transportation means (as a rule, I drive only manual cars, haha!). I didn't even get to see Naeda's new baby girl (by the way, "TAHNIAH" again!!!), was afraid of spreading my terrible cold to the baby, they're so susceptible to such things! Anyway, let me say "A THOUSAND APOLOGIES!!!" to the friends and family I didn't get to meet on my last trip home! I promise, I'll make it up to you next time I'm back!

Anyway, initially I was meant to look for a job in Brunei, but now, I'm thinking twice about it - why? Because I don't think I'll be able to adapt to life there, it's scary, been away so long! O.o Haha, I'm a coward. Things are so different there to what I remembered it to be - at times, I'm not even sure of the proper social etiquette! If not for my family and friends, I think I would not come back, so despite my "fear", I will return to Brunei one day, have no worries! Just not sure when, for the moment, I'm actually pretty content staying in Berlin, learning German. Most likely, I'll be back in Brunei on a permanent basis in several months' time, but can't be definite. Anyway, everyone keeps telling me to take my time, enjoy the break after the Ph.D. - I guess I'll follow their advice for now. One step at a time, cross the bridge when I get to it, etc. etc. etc. So thanks, everyone, for your endless support! :D I'll always remember it!

Aesthetic Tribute: July & August 2007

So despite what happened, I managed to find a few hours here and there to do some manga fanart for a monthly online exhibition (called Aesthetic Tribute) held by the forum I'm involved with. Each month, some manga characters are chosen and two choices of themes are given. I've posted previously my June 2007 fanart so here are those for July and August respectively. Hope you like them! :D

Fanart title: "Ren no sakura no emi"
Fanart character: Tsuruga Ren (Skip Beat! by Nakamura Yoshiki)
Theme: "Sakura Smile"
Media used: drawn with pencil; cleaned by CG
Comments: The title of the drawing means "Ren's sakura smile" in Japanese... I think, haha! Anyway, I had this image of him teasingly hiding his rare smile with something sakura-related. I didn't think I could pull off drawing a branch of sakura blossoms, but somehow, I managed to! Really happy with the outcome. Isn't Ren so bishie? [sigh]

Fanart characters: Sawada Shin (Gokusen by Morimoto Kozueko) and Mogami Kyouko (Skip Beat! by Nakamura Yoshiki)
Theme: "Unrequited Love"
Fanart title: "Gomen nasai"
Media used: drawn with pencil; cleaned by CG
Comments: The fanart title stands for "I'm sorry" in Japanese (written in hiragana in the middle) and I think it basically says it all, haha. In this scene, Shin is the one suffering unrequited love (Poor Shin!). Kyouko, being cynical about love, rejects him, but feels somewhat unhappy about having to hurt him. The ring on the chain? I guess it's like exchanging school rings between a couple. Anyway, my favourite part to draw was actually Shin's hair (so cool!)!


Jaysus! O.o

Has it been over a month since my last post?! I had intended to blog on a regular basis over the holidays, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be due to unforseen circumstances! Let's see, firstly, I hurt my back in Singapore (I should really be careful carrying heavy bags!), then caught a terrible cold in New Zealand (with fever and non-stop coughing, ugh! It lasted weeks!), excruciatingly slow internet connection in Brunei (Simpur is crap!) and finally, German language tests (inLingua did not tell me about these!) now that I'm back in Germany! The tests won't be over till next week - I have another one on Monday! O.o They're not too bad, though.

Since I feel like a change after all that, I decided to do so by putting up a new colour scheme on my blog with the same design. Hope you like it! :) Anyway, I can't write much now, so here's my blog backlog list (yet again!):
  • Holidays in Brunei
  • Holidays in New Zealand (with photos)
  • Asthetic Tribute fanarts
  • Anime/Manga (hehe, I did warn you!)
  • Visit to Bavaria and Austria (with photos)
  • Friends' visit to Germany (with photos)
  • "Wir sind Helden" (German alternative music band)
Well, that's all I can think of! Really got to go now! Oh yeah, almost forgot: