Background music: Yuna’s Dan Sebenarnya.

It was a bright day. Sun shining, giving the bright New Zealand blue sky that I’ve missed so much. I was up for a mission – to drive alone to Auckland City Centre and tour it as much as I can, while Cik Mah is working and Cik Jamal fishing with the kids.

So after all the hassle (waiting for the kids to get ready, although they’re not going with me) and planning (by sitting quietly in Hanisah’s room, alone, staring at the map), there I was, driving to Auckland City Centre. Quite a long trip, actually, about 40 minutes. That’s about the same duration I take to KL from home on a Sunday morning!!

As I entered Auckland City Centre, my apprehension increased. Tension mounted. Where am I? What am I doing here? Where do I park? Shall I just park here and walk? Is it too far from where I wanted to go – which I don’t know? Hmm… OK, don’t panic. I took a deep breath and thought, “Hey, this is what you really call ‘out of my comfort zone’!” Wait a minute, I could survive in Dublin, in London and all, why not Auckland city?

So I drove on. Along Victoria, Wellesly, Albert, and many other streets that I could drive into. Found the harbour. Wondered whether I should cross to the north shore. Maybe not.

I drove on. And on. Suddenly, with a pang of regret, I noticed that the gas mark was touching ‘E’, and the warning light was blinking!!! Gosh, I need to park now and walk the city! Well, I did find a parking spot, in a hurry, that is. So I happily walked out the building and found that I was in a shopping area! Hmm…left or right? Should I start with the shops first?

Actually the place I was looking for was the area we shopped in 2005, near the place we stayed, which was so nice and pretty. But I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel, and the street too! I did see Starbucks on my way to the parking area, so I knew I was near there.

The first thing I did was turn into an uphill street, which was not too bad as I have been climbing a few hills already recently (Yeah rite! Like it was that challenging!). But I noticed that I was walking away from the crowd. The area became a bit less occupied and the buildings are further apart from each other. I knew by then I was in the wrong direction. So I followed a few other people who are walking around, and finally found it. On my way I saw Aotea Centre. Huge building but I didn’t go in because I was hurrying to a crowded place. Supposed to be like Life Centre back then in KL.

Queen Street it’s called. The place I was looking for. In and out I went, to the shops. Souvenirs, Quicksilver, Oakley, Cotton, souvenirs again, Kikki…most shops are on sale, by the way. Winter sale. Woohoo!!

There’s a shop that sells natural soap. Made out of some natural stuff like flowers or lemon or milk or even yoghurt, coconut milk…they sell it in blocks and you’ll have to cut the large block (like cheese) and weigh them! Interesting but expensive! One 100g block is at least $8!! Wanted to buy those nice thingies as a gift for someone, but I’m not that close to this particular someone, so I don’t know what her favourite smell is. I’m close to her husband though. Hmm…

Anyway, I ended up smiling and saying ‘thank you’ to the friendly shopkeepers, and wishing that I have hundreds in my pocket so that I could buy some gifts for my friends. Ah, well…

All Blacks stuff are expensive too. And so are Quicksilver ones.

Kikki is a shop that sells (pricey) stationaries. Note books, pens, desk organiser, even a book that says “Tax Deductable Receipts”. It contains envelops with labels on top, ring-binded with a nice cover. Hey, I could do that for all my receipts too! Maybe I could categorise them as Groceries, Clothes, Books etc, put a pretty cover and send for binding. More organising projects. Must tell Nadia. Must clean up my room, and hers first! Notebooks reminded me on how much I wanted to write there and then..

Bought some keychains and pens (lame, I know) for people back home. And T-shirts for my dear little angel, and myself too.

Walked and walked. My plans to see ‘Auckland City culture and people’ became a hunt for souvenirs. Not right. Not right. I spent a lot of time there.

Then I walked up a small street which led me to a small underground shop selling rare books and magazines and maps. Wow, they really sell rare, old books – some of them almost 200 years old!!! On the way down to the shop there were old New Zealand maps, posters. Then I got caught with some old postcards, sold at $1 each, and 12 for $10. I must get some! The cards were produced in early 20th century. Some were actually sent from UK to New Zealand in 1905. I found a few which has photos of University College Cork, Queen’s University of Belfast, O’Connell’s statue in Dublin and a port in Yokohama. Bought them to frame them up.

Other than that I found a poster promoting Rotorua to British – dated in the early 20th century. It really has the contact numbers for New Zealand Travel and Transport Dept in the UK. It said there that Rotorua is the world’s natural beauty center, something like ‘the world’s natural spa’. There are books on how explorers found Rotorua, other places in New Zealand too, a picture book about highlands in New Zealand (Mt Ruapehu, Mt Cook and Queenstown) with photos of men in suits skiing on those mountains. Also on travelling to India, Ceylon, Japan and China (they’re locked in a cupboard so I can’t have a peep on it). I was tempted to buy a book titled “The Life of a Diplomat’s Wife in Japan” dated in the end of the 19th century. It was $25.

There were loads of old Shakespear’s books, many copies for each title. By this time I was already quite late. So I proceeded to the counter to pay for my special postcards. Apparently the owner of that shop has owned a bookstore for over 30 years, and has travelled the world looking for these precious books! I told the lady at the counter that the only thing I collect is cards from all over the world.. (actually only from Amsterdam and London, obtained in 2002 – cute little cards which I have yet to frame!).

I found that in that small alley there are lots of interesting gift shops! I’ve almost ran out of cash (now I regret not having a credit card – must have a credit card when you travel!!). I wanted to buy something unique for my family as many of them has come here. Funny T-shirts for my brothers, for instance. There’s a shop that sells handcrafted items from all over the world, esp poor countries. Again, unique stuff but some are quite pricey.

I rushed back to my parking area but I was hungry. I thought of going back to the Indian shop I found earlier on, but I saw a sign for a Chinese vegetarian shop. Noodles! Yay!

Woooow…laarge portion! Simple fried noodles with ‘chicken’ but laaaarge portion. With one large bowl of a drink (can’t remember the name right now). Can’t finish. I hope I didn’t offend the shop owner. I did tell the cashier that the portion was too big for me, but the food was good, thanks. By the way, I was the only customer in that restaurant.

I quickly walked to the building I parked my car in. Still, on the way I managed to stop at a chocolate shop (the story about which I may write later), ogle at the unique chocolates, took photos of a few roadsigns (so that I won’t forget them in the future, in case I wanted to come back!) and considered buying a Starbucks’ hot chocolate. But I needed to fetch Cik Mah from work!

I rushed home. And I’m rushing now. It’s very late at night, I need to sleep. There’s a story about the parking space that I need to write about too. But that can wait. I’m already hungry again, and yes, I need to sleep.

Bye for now!