Day 1 - 03/08/2003
Sydney (Australia) Home, Christchurch (New Zealand)

Today, was the first day of my holiday to New Zealand - for my American friends, this is a vacation ... if I remember correctly, this is the right word to use in the American vocabulary ... one of the unexpected things I learnt on my last vacation.  Somehow, I feel as though I am going to learn some more interesting difference between the "Australian" and New Zealand vocabulary  - although most Americans/Canadians think we all sound the same - we, Australians can notice a major difference in the accent (especially when they say "six" [read "sex"], which has happened a number of times).

I have endeavoured on this journey with some life-long friends ... (in alphabetical order) George Alifierakis, Greg Brooks, David Fung and Anthony Lutvey.  I hope that we can still call each other "life-long" friends at the end of this trip.

The Airport:

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:30am and I had organised to arrive at 7:30am (the 2hour time recommended by the airline), however, Greg insisted that he would arrive at 6:30am ... I arrived at the airport at 7:30am and Greg was the last to arrive (well after 7:30am).

As we were in the line to check-in our luggage, we discussed how the events of September 11 had affected the amount of time that it takes to get through an airport and we wondered how hard it would be to get a pair of tweezers onto a plane ... then George asked, "but I would be ok with a Swiss Knife right?".  I laughed and laughed and said "very funny" ... and then I saw the serious look on his face.  George had a Swiss knife in his on-board carry luggage ... I think we surprised a few people in the line as we frantically opened bags and move items around, just before checking-in our luggage.

The rest of the check-in was relatively smooth, except Greg had to remove shoes (and I think his belt as well) because he had too much metal (or the security guards wanted to see him do a strip-tease).  The check-in was so smooth that the security officers didn't even look at the photo in my passport! (which is fortunate because I look nothing like the photo in my passport now).

The Plane:

On the plane I managed to talk my way into emergency aisle seats, which meant lots of extra leg room!  However, I did not account for the maniac who would be sitting next to me ... he started fine, seeming like a normal person until he confessed, "This is the first time that I have flown".  I thought, "he will be fine" ... I was wrong.  It started his simple request for some Panadol, which led to approximately 2 hours of his face burred in his hands, and then progressed to shaking and hysterically looking at his hands and yelling unintelligible gibberish as he appeared to be hallucinating. I left the matter to the flight attendants and continued to watch "Anger Management" to calm me down.

I normally like to eat a lot on planes ... well, actually, I normally just like to eat a lot - full stop. However, this airline was not going to allow me to have my normal feast.  After they served lunch, I gave my usual request for "Is there another meal I can have?" and which the air steward rudely replied "Most definitely not!"  They claimed that they only had enough for one meal per passenger and that each person ate their meal.  I accepted this response, until I spoke to George later in the flight and he told me that he did not take a meal when they delivered lunch ... we concluded that the flight attendants must had double the meals themselves!

The Hotel:

We checked into the Copthorne Central and the view from the room was nice.

As we slowly decided what to do next, George decided to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon ... this could not have possibly been because of jet lag since Christchurch (New Zealand) is actually 2 hours behind Sydney. He did say though that he only got 2 hours sleep the night before we left.

As Greg and David decided to watch the football in their hotel rooms - something that they can not do at home - Anthony, George and I decided to explore the streets and found some interesting sites in Christchurch - for example, a church (in Christchurch).  We also came across countless "All Blacks" shops selling "All Blacks" merchandise ... and when I say countless, I mean countless ... in the city, they seem to have one of these stores on every corner, maybe to attract tourist money ... and tourist money they definitely do seem to have.   I was very surprised to see how many tourists seem to be in Christchurch.  How could I tell they were tourists?  Well, I do not think that the New Zealand population is 95% Asian.  I was shocked to see so many Asians walking the streets [for anyone who does not know me, I am not racist, I have many Asian friends - I am simply making an observation].  In fact, I think a lot of the residents are Asian too, for example, in the first "All Blacks" store I ventured into, the sales assistant was Asian (see picture), instead of a Maori - maybe to suck in the tourist dollar?  In line with all these tourists, there is a Japanese restaurant on every corner too - something I was not expecting to see in New Zealand.

This country seems to really love their sport, especially rugby - more so that Australia, if that is possible.  Not only do they have these countless "All Blacks" shops proclaiming themselves as "Champions Of The World"!?! but they also have massive area set aside for watching rugby.  For example, a lot of pubs and clubs have large screens with rugby being broadcast 24 hours a day ... and when I say large screens, I do not mean big screens like we have seen in many Aussie pubs, I am talking about massive screens that are the size of movie cinema screens.  On establishment that we went to, "The Holy Grail", had 4 stories of indoor football stadium style seating available in the pub behind a massive cinema sized screen - I wonder if this is normal in New Zealand ... and I wonder why Australia hasn't already jumped onto this idea.

Dinner:

After walking the streets for a few hours, I think my core body temperature dropped about 10 degrees, so we decided to get indoors and have dinner at "Valentino's cafe".  I could not resist trying the special pasta of the day ... Satay Penne, because I thought there was no where else in the world that I could try Satay Pasta!  It was ok, but not great.

After dinner, we decided to go for a walk to the Casino, but some members of the group were wearing jeans so we could not all get in.  We thought that since they had very strict dress regulations, that it must have been a very nice Casino inside ... after having a look inside, we determined that we were not missing out on much.  We also got to go past a restaurant that serves "Yum Char" (not Yum Cha) - I guess it is char-grilled? We also got to see some New Zealand natives in traditional dress (see picture) - it can be a bit confusing to tell the difference between the guys and the girls because the male clothing looks very similar to our female clothing, but you definitely would not want to make the mistake, unless you like getting beaten up by big men.

After our walk, we returned to "Valentino's Cafe" for dessert.  I had a macadamia chocolate brownie ice-cream sandwich - it sounded fantastic, but it was a bit rich for me (which is rare).  I finished off the night with a Bailey Hot Chocolate ... a hot chocolate with two shots of Baileys for extra strength in helping to warm you up.