Packing

Packing, oh my gosh, packing.

I’m an anal packer anal about hyper-particular about packing – I make lists of how many underwears to bring, how much soap to take, etc… My mum brings disposable underwears she’s bought at the pharmacy.

We’re due at the airport in 3 hours and I think I have my packing done. I hope. I really hope. Worse comes to worse, I’ll buy what I forget onsite.

But I think I got everything. I think. Good luck to me.

See you on the other side of sanity because I think the next few few hours will be crazy!!!!

Thing 4: Paua

40thingsat40When I hear the word paua, this is what comes to mind – a gloriously shiny, multi-hued, mainly blues and greens, shell which is often used to make decorative ornaments or jewelry. In fact, I have a earring or two made from this unique resource.

So, when my sister’s mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to try grilled paua, I immediately replied “Yes!”

And so, that night, after an 8-hour drive from Auckland to Wellington, I enjoyed my first taste of lightly grilled paua with a squeeze of lemon. So, what did I think? Yum, tastes just like chicken!

Note: I forgot to take a picture of the delicious grilled paua because it was already late at night and I was hangry. I have to say that it tastes better than it looks though. 

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NOT the grilled paua that I had

Thing 3: 253/ 251 Steps

40thingsat40When we arrived at the lighthouse, I looked up at the seemingly neverending wooden steps built into the cliff side and wondered to myself “Am I really going to do this?”

The stairs were steep, it looked like they were at a 30 degree angle, and oh there were so many of them! I was worried that I’d be winded halfway up and then get stuck on the steps, and emergency services would have to be called in. After all, I’d just completed an unplanned one hour hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles.

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The vertigo-inducing climb to the Cape Palliser lighthouse

Eventually though, I got out of the car and mumbled to myself “If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it the second I’m on the plane on the way back home.” So, off I went. Despite the fact that my legs were already feeling wobbly.

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253? Or 251?

The official website for the Cape Pallier lighthouse stated that there are 253 steps but the signboard at the bottom of the steps declared something different. Someone had scratched out “253” and wrote “251” instead. I intended to count the steps as I made my way up but with the steepness of the stairs and breathlessness that assailed me, I stopped at 27, so the actual number of steps will remain a mystery to me!

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Success!!!

It must’ve taken probably 10 minutes for me to reach the top, only because I stopped many times and whenever there were folks heading down and past me, I gripped the handrail with all my might, refusing to move. I had this vision in my head that if I continued upwards while they past me, Bernoulli’s principle would be in effect and I’d be blown off the stairs! Though my counting abilities failed me, my imagination was working more than fine!

Of course, after catching my breath and enjoying the view around me, it was time to leave which means going down the perilous wooden steps which either numbered 253 or 251. I said a little prayer that I wouldn’t fall head over heels as I looked at the journey downwards that awaited me. Eeeeeeeek!!!

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Why aren’t there handrails on BOTH sides???!!! Why???

 

A Mini April A-to-Z Announcement

Dear fellow readers – I am currently on vacation and though I had every intent to write my A-to-Z posts ahead of time, that intention somehow got lost in the wind. However, whenever possible, I will make every attempt to post on-time but if you don’t see my posts that day, do expect to get a spree of catch-up posts the following days!

A Famosa

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Malacca, one of the thirteen states in Malaysia, was a Portugese colony from 1511 – 1641. To protect the colony from attacks, the Portugese built a fortress called A Famosa (The Famous).

School children all over the country would’ve visited Malacca during a school trip as it figures prominently in our history books. The last time I was there was in 2013 and even then, I was still in awe at how much history this structure has seen.

While I was researching for this post though, I came across some sources that indicate that this structure which I know is A Famosa, is not exactly A Famosa! In fact, this gate could be part of the Fortaleza de Malaca, another fortress built by the Portugese, and also could actually be called the Porta de Santiago! Now, I’m confused. And slightly bewildered.

Also, because A Famosa is such a well-known name in Malaysia, it’s also the name of a water-themed park and resort. Sorry, Portugal!  1389169610126

Tell me about the historical monuments/ buildings/ structures in your city/ country!

Thing 1: Biting into Black Pudding

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This post is part of my #40thingsat40 project to celebrate the fact that I turn 40 this year

My brother loves black pudding and for many years he’s tried to persuade me to give it a try. The first time he asked me to try it, I poked at it and said “Why’s it black?” To my utter disgust, he answered “Blood, mainly.” Since then, every time he tried to get me to try a bite, I’d pull a face and respond “Ugh, no.”

On December 9th 2016, before heading into Kew Gardens, my mother and I decided to grab a breakfast at Tap on the Line, a pub located right at the Kew Gardens Station of the London Underground. It was one of the prettiest-looking pubs I’ve ever seen. It had a domed glass roof and extensive outdoor seating. As it’s right on the train platform, from inside the pub, you could see trains come and go, passengers embarking and disembarking. I could sit there the entire day, sipping tea.

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A lovely place to sit outside in the summer with a pint

We perused the simple breakfast menu and I immediately knew what I wanted to get –

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The breakfast menu

Full English, pork sausage, Mrs. Owton’s bacon, Hampshire black pudding, beans, tomato & mushroom, free range eggs to your liking, toast.

I was famished and couldn’t wait to try my first bite of black pudding. “Why do you suddenly want to try black pudding?” My mum questioned as she’s perfectly aware that for years, I’ve resisted. “Well, at least once I try it, if I still think it’s ugh, at least my future protests will be an informed one.” To my ears, that sounded like a perfectly logical and reasonable reason. My taste buds were getting ready to be ugh.

My breakfast came and without wasting another minute, attacked the black pudding. I somehow thought that it would be crumbled but instead it was served sliced, like two hockey pucks. I broke off a little piece and popped the black pudding made mostly with blood into my mouth.

It was DELICIOUS! 

Like sausage, slightly game-y and the edges of the black pudding, which were toasted (I think), tasted crisp. Yum!

So, I tried black pudding – yay me! – and I definitely will again!

(I polished the entire plate)

Christmas Trees, Eels and Batfishes

Snorkeling at Mak Cantik (Beautiful Mother), a dive site off Redang Island, was an unforgettable experience. Not only because of the marine life I encountered there but also because of the number of other snorkelers who were there. There was a carpet of people, literally! Snorkeling near the boat that brought us from the hotel to the site, I had repeat `excuse me, excuse me‘ and tried my best not to snorkel into other people’s feet lest I get a kicked in the face! I pitied the fishes, they must’ve been terrified to see so many bodies in their territory! We did manage to get some peace and quiet from the other snorkelers later though and went further away from the boat so that we could actually have the opportunity to see some fishes instead of other people’s hands and feet.

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A not-so festive looking Christmas Tree worm (The Amusing Planet)

It was at Mak Cantik where I saw my first Christmas Tree worm. I was utterly fascinated with them as I disturbed the water above them and they retracted back into themselves. And if you waited a few seconds, the bristles would emerge from the tubes into which they retracted and they’d fan themselves out. Truly amazing! I also saw many Giant Clams, which I at first thought was a kind of coral because its shell was so crusted, it truly looked like the hard coral that it was sometimes attached to.

Unfortunately while we were gleefully bobbing up and down in the water, we noticed that there were many tiny, golfball-sized transparent thingies (jellyfish???) around us and some of us felt stings which hurt for a little while. When I was stung, I searched my arm for any swelling but when I saw none, I thought it best not to emerge from the water and shout, `Jellyfish! Jellyfish!’ causing a mass panic of hand and feet when I truly didn’t know if they were indeed jellyfish.

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“What are you doing in my backyard???” asked the Giant Moray Eel (Ocean Treasures Memorial Library)

Later that afternoon, we were brought to the Marine Park located at Pulau Pinang (a tiny island off Pulau Redang proper). The park ranger told us that an 8.5 foot Giant Moray Eel was in resident. I remember pretending to be excited but secretly, I hoped it was taking its afternoon nap. After 10 minutes in the water, we noticed something large undulating a few feet beneath us. I looked down and my breath caught in my throat. Apparently, the eel was NOT taking a nap, as I’d hoped. It was elegantly drifting in and around the corals, going into any nook and cranny. Witnessing the eel swimming casually was amazing even though I was scared out of my freaking mind. Generally, eels aren’t that active preferring to anchor the rear portion of their bodies in a crevice and stay hidden during the day. I had a sneaking suspicion though that all the marine life at the Marine Park were there to `work’ – entertaining the tourists, and when the park closed down at night, they would clock out and go to their real homes in a reef far, far away.

Before we returned to our resort, we managed to squeeze in a final 45 minutes of snorkeling at another site, Tanjung Tengah (Middle Cape/ Point). This was where I saw my first Titan Triggerfish, a fish that I’ve been told to stay away from at all costs. When I caught sight of it, I started swimming sloooowly away. Well, actually there were two of us swimming sloooowly away, trying not to make eye-contact with it while also trying not to bump into the corals in our semi-haste to escape. Another colleague though was following it from a distance and we wanted to tell her to move away, but what the hey, we were cowards and we wanted to save ourselves. In the end, nothing alarming happened though which made me realise that the Triggerfish was probably a sweetheart with a bad rep.

Nearing the end, I beheld a mesmerising sight – a school of batfish suspended above a coral outcrop. I was in awe and was so excited that I tried to clap my hands but because I was underwater, it was a slow effort. I watched them in near-suspended animation, flexing their tiny fins a little whenever there was a slight current change. They projected a sense of peace which made me feel at peace too. It was a good day.

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A school of batfish sans capes or batmobiles (Tropical Marine Biodiversity

Daily Prompt: Ancient

In response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Ancient

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dsc_0413I stood on the exposed terrace of the Aerial Temple, contemplating the crumbled sandstone steps in front of me. Though I was on the second level, away from the crowd walking the grounds, faint tourist chatter still managed to reach me. The guide had explained that kings of long ago used to climb these steps which led to a room with walls made of gold. Whether or not the gold tower room existed out of legend would remain a mystery because from my vantage point, there were only sandstone columns at the top. The steps were steep and there were no handrails. The only way to reach the top was to crawl up the broken steps on all fours. The early afternoon heat warmed my skin as I pondered the climb. I squared my shoulders, secured my rucksack across my body, popped a refreshing mint into my mouth and gripped the first step with my hand. Bits of sandstone broke away. The cool January wind whipped my hair around my head, lightly flicking my face. I took a quick peek behind me and immediately regretted my action. I swayed a little and gripped the steps harder. Several minutes passed and I finally pulled myself up the last one. The scent of sandalwood assailed me. Was there someone else here? I peered around a fallen column adorned with carvings of demons and deities and saw an old woman who was on her knees, clutching incense sticks.  She turned her gap-filled smile my way. So this was where the legendary Snake Princess lived.

#BEDM Day 20: The 38-hour Roadtrip

Today’s topic is from the Found Love Now What blog – Have you ever been on a road trip? Where did you go? If not, where would you like to take one to?

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I love road trips. I like driving long distance. The last road trip I took was in 2013. It was a spur of the moment trip. I stumbled upon an amazing resort with room rates slashed 50% and that’s when I knew where I’d be heading for my next road trip.

On the day of my trip, I was up at 5am because I intended to start my journey before 6am, ideally at 530am. I didn’t quite sleep. Which is normal for me. Rather, I took multiple naps throughout the night. So, when my alarm finally rang at 5am, I was sure my eyes were bloodshot.  Naturally, after rolling around in bed, had my coffee, went to the bathroom, etc…I only left at 550am. Not too bad. But 530am would’ve been better.

A friend who was concerned about me driving across the country suggested I update my Facebook status every chance I could during the trip so she could make sure I was safe and sound. I did and every time my phone pinged when someone commented, I felt like I wasn’t alone on the journey!

I admit, I did get lost for a little bit. I generally didn’t mind getting lost provided I had a full tank of gas. I suppose my wonderful GPS decided to take me through the scenic route. Also, I programmed it to the town the resort was in and not the exact co-ordinates of the resort which was what I should’ve done in the first place.

Finally, after more than 8 hours of driving over a distance of 500 kilometres (I took many, many stops), I arrived and was shown to my villa. An entire house which was a 100 years old, all to myself. It was beautiful and the hours of driving totally made up for it.

I spent 20 hours at the resort, then the next day, checked out and drove 500 kilometres home. All within 38 hours.

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