“Why do you want to go to New Zealand?”
It is such a general and casual question but it really burned our brains thinking of ways to answer it. If I had a brain-juicing machine, I would use it. Well, I think this question calls for many different types of answers. The country is beautiful; I would love to take a gap year and see the world; I want to face uncertainties, grow up, face new challenges and forge myself into a stronger person; and so many more. I think that’s why people want to flee in pursuit of this lifestyle that not many would have the chance to partake. I was no exception.
But when they turned to Louis and asked him THIS question, he would smile and answer really slowly that people would normally fill in for him, “Because she’s here so you’re here. You guys had to stick together?” Then he would awkwardly smile and say yes.
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I didn’t know what to expect before I go. I was feeling all kinds of mixed emotions – happy, excited, worried, anxious and sad. It is natural to think that you’d be extremely over the moon when you travel to another country; However, I was sure that the feeling boiling and cooking inside of me was not exactly happy. I didn’t know how to explain this feeling, but I was not alone. Louis was looking really excited when he was on the plane, but when we started settling down in Auckland, all emotions started pouring in.
Oh, this was also Louis’ first flight, so I interviewed him on the plane out of boredom about his first flight experience:
- Feeling: excited, happy, worried, and later bored.
- Best part: the take off
- Worst part: worrying about the pressure in the ears (which was non-existent)
- Overall: 8/10
- Food: Salty
- Lavatory: Ear-deafening flush
- View: Awesome (We were above the clouds) and the best sunrise I’ve ever seen.
- Seat: Squeezy, butt hurt, difficult to fall asleep (the seat was too straight), worst than taking a bus.
I questioned myself on why would I want to leave my job that many people wanted? Why would I want to put myself in such tormenting situations of going through a new stage in life? Why would I do this to myself?
We are now in a new country, and we need to survive for a few months away from comfort, home and everything that we ever knew. It was real. The situation was real. The concrete surrounding our bedroom was real. Our Airbnb hosts were real.
The flight to New Zealand was a physically and mentally challenging one. We flew at 12am midnight and had to stay on the plane for 13 ungodly hours with an hour of layover (Gold Coast, Australia) in between.
We bought an AirAsia premium flex ticket for a few more hundreds to get more leg room and free access to the Red Lounge. It was the wisest idea. I can fully stretch my legs, and leaving for the lavatory anytime was no problem at all. We were also seated very near to the exit, so we didn’t have to wait long to exit the plane when it landed. Most importantly, we can exit the plane first in case of a plane crash, provided if we’re still alive.
Nevertheless, the food was terrible. Too salty.
Another fellow Malaysian girl sat beside me and we shared the information we have with each other. She showed me the job list she had while I showed her the information that I have gathered throughout the months. She insisted to go on this journey even though her boyfriend didn’t get the visa. I thought to myself, “How could you beat yourself up so much when there are people who are dying for the chance that you’re getting right now?” I basically talked to myself a lot in my head during the 13-hour long flight. Like I said, it wasn’t an easy flight. The devils will get to you.
Arriving in Auckland Airport
We breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived in Auckland. We exited the plane and went through customs in the blink of an eye. It was an easy process! We have heard of so many issues about going through NZ customs because they can be fussy about the things you bring into their country. We declared our used hiking boots, to which she asked, “What were they used for? General walking or wilderness?” We washed it squeaky clean, so we showed her our boots and said that they were used for general walking. She didn’t even check our visas nor asked to see our bank statements if we’ve enough funds for our travels. We passed through like the wind.
On the plane, the pilot announced that the weather in New Zealand was 22 degree celcius. It was supposed to be summer. We were chilled to our bones and clung onto our backpacks waiting for our shuttle van – someone we found off Facebook who offered cheap rides to our Airbnb. He charged us $20 per person, which was quite expensive, but we wanted to get a fuss-free ride home. I later learned that we could take the bus/train for just $3.30 per person. It’s alright. Like I said, it was fuss-free without any transfers needed.
We stayed 15-20 minutes drive away from the city central; 45 minutes to an hour by public transportation. It was a quiet suburb with beautiful houses lining up the road. They were all unique with their very own personalised designs. Every house has flowers planted in their garden and most of them have trampolines! Ours was located at the backyard. We played only once. It was fun.
The weather was chilly, which encouraged the growth of the many types of colourful flowers. It was just like being in Cameron or Genting Highlands back home. I also took a picture of the daffodils in front of our hosts’ house!
Surviving on a budget
We stayed in Auckland for a week.
The first day upon arriving, we immediately walked to Pak N Save, the place to buy the cheapest and most affordable groceries in town. It was a 10-minute walk, but with the cold breeze smacking our faces constantly while teasing our Malaysian thin skin, we were at the brink of turning into ice. Louis’ lips were cracking and his skin was turning as dry as the autumn leaves. Luckily I brought Nivea moisturiser and my colleagues gave me a lip balm. Those lubricated our cracked skins. We bought groceries without converting from NZD to MYR because we would faint seeing the amount that we spent.
Our female host traveled the world a lot, so she was also fanatical about Asian food. She recommended Lim Supermarket near where we lived to grab Asian food groceries. We walked to Lim Supermarket and was entirely mesmerised by the amount of Malaysian food and sauce – and generally any Asian food we can find there. Boy, some of them were expensive! It was like shopping for the king and queen. Wait, we are the king and queen.
When a German and Austria tenants came on the third day, they started cooking pasta with tomato sauce. A lightbulb immediately lit up in our brains, “Why the heck did we not figure out that we could cook pasta?!” So we bought pasta and ate it for 2 meals. It was okay. We missed eating rice… dearly. The choices for good vegetables in Auckland supermarkets are sadly limited and expensive.
Going Around Auckland
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As I was adjusting the lighting for this photo, it dawned upon me that I was also adjusting my life to a country I was not raised in - a country with a different culture that previously, only comes in the form of stories and handwritten experiences. Now I get to experience it. I came to NZ to have a broader perspective of a different world I lived in. A world so beautiful - it can only be found in postcards. The fears and the unknown were overwhelming it can be daunting, but I insisted in staying positive. Looking for jobs and planning my next move. Busy busy. Will blog when I can. P/s: Not planning to migrate to NZ anymore because their toilets don't have hose/bidet.
Walk and cycle
There are a few ways to go around Auckland. The first day – we walked. It was a long walk to the supermarket. There were lots of teeth gritting, not from the cursing, but from the chilling wind.
On the second day – we slept in and generally felt depressed about ourselves. We were feeling jetlag and found it difficult to get used to the cold weather. We made an appointment with the bank and they said that we can only go in on Thursday. We knew that we were not supposed to be sitting around doing nothing, so we got up and started walking around the neighbourhood park on Wednesday. We took the hosts’ mountain bikes because they were much faster and easier to access places that are farther. Immediately after that – we felt better!
I’ve read an article online about going out and visiting the town or city rather than being a couch potato help tremendously with coping jetlag, so we did, and were glad we did it.
Once we took the first step, we were unstoppable. On Thursday, we cycled to attend our bank appointment, which was only meant for one person, but we managed to slot in two person together. We chose ANZ because we have the option to open the GO account online before our arrival and it was a quicker process. Our personal consultant – Punitha was an extremely helpful lady and she was all smiles when she helped us set up our account. We felt like we were blessed by angels.
On our way to the bank, we saw the sign “St. Mary Catholic Church” and came back after we’re done with our bank documents to pray. The church was open and we took a free tour around the church. It felt very much like home again. We took our bicycle helmets off and knelt down to pray. We thanked God and prayed for a safe journey. We were also praying that the backpackers’ lodge that we were about to stay in when we start our jobs later on would be a nice one.
Due to limited financial capabilities, we only opted for free-entry places, and we found that Auckland Domain and Auckland War Memorial Museum were two really famous and cheap place, and they’re just within walking distance in the same domain! So off we went to those two places in a day, by train. It was only on the third day that we realised how foolish of us to not use the public transportation when it’s such an abundant and convenient option in Auckland.
From Auckland Domain, we accessed 3 different places in a day. Auckland Domain – which was the huge park itself, with the War memorial museum contained in the domain; and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which was just a few steep steps away from the domain! There were a lot of huffing and puffing involved.
Pictures of Auckland Domain
Pictures of Auckland War Memorial Museum
Pictures of St. John The Baptist Church
On Friday, the day before we leave for Opotiki, we told ourselves that we HAVE to visit the Auckland Central City Centre but we still got very much attracted to nature – One Tree Hill, Cornwall Park. It was the BEST decision we’ve ever made, even though the walk there was killing us! We also took our first bus ride in Auckland – and we missed one too! I hopped on the wrong bus immediately after getting off the train, speaking about ganjiong-ness. We ended up going in the wrong direction and got down at a cemetery, which was eye-opening to me because I’ve never seen a cemetery in NZ before. Well, if you’re curious, they look just like in the movies.
Cornwall Park was definitely a beautiful and scenic park that had plenty of hungry sheep! We were very surprised when we learned that we could open the gates to where the grazing sheep were, and go up close with them! There were also joggers jogging at the grazing area. The park was so well-maintained that the whole place looked really clean – except for the grazing area which was full of poop. We took so many photos there and couldn’t be more glad that we brought our tripods together, even though it added a lot of weight to Louis’ backpack.
By the time we started falling in love with this city, it was also time for us to say goodbye. One week was definitely enough for us to settle our bank accounts and apply for an IRD number. We were glad that we managed to visit all the nature places in Auckland and would be happy if we could visit again. The weather was definitely the best, although sometimes it can get really cold and chilly. Even though it was cold, we still avoided standing out exposed in direct sunlight because it can really burn our skins!
If you’d like to see what we prepared (documents, accommodation, finance and whatnot) before and after arriving in NZ, check out my post on 10 things to prepare for New Zealand Working Holiday.
Auckland, until we meet again aye!
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