Sunday, June 14, 2015

Thai Fun

The Thai girls have been really kind to us, offering to give us a ride to and from work and did not even ask us to share the cost of petrol. We spent much time together in the car and after work (we all live under one roof), picking up a few Thai phrases and teaching them some Chinese words. They would crack us up when they try to say "yi dian dian" (little bit), "wo xi huan ni" (I like you) or "shen jing bing" (crazy). Similarly, they would burst out laughing when I speak Thai for example I said I want to "fakbua" Pia gave me a puzzled look and I showed her the translation in my ipod she laughed and said that's wrong it should be "abnam", fakbua refers to shower head! 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grape Picking in Martinborough

Martinborough is part of the Classic Wine Trail, a 380km journey through the three major wine producing regions in New Zealand - Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Marlborough. The grape picking season in Martinborough started in late March and lasted for about a month. Our second job in New Zealand turned out to be loads of fun!

Walking around the wine village, we saw many vineyards had covered their grapes with nets to keep away birds from eating the fruit. This means that the grapes are almost ripe and ready for harvest.

Picking with the Thai seasonal workers

Mucking around before picking starts

Pia is always telling us to "liao liao!!!" which means hurry up in Thai

It's handy to wear a pair of rubber gloves during picking as the juice will get your hands wet and sticky. Extra protection too in case you snip your own fingers. (Not kidding, everyone's gloves had holes all over.) My cloth gloves always leave my hands soaking wet and cold, it gets quite unpleasant wearing them the whole day. So I was happy I could start off the day with dry gloves.

Similarly, working in gum boots will keep your feet dry and safe from accidents. The quad bike accidentally ran over the heel of my boot, lucky it was sturdy enough.



So thick where to start?

One man on each side of the line, cut those on your side, catch the bunch and drop it in the bin.

Fill up the bin and kick it along as you progress to the next bay where there will be an empty bin waiting to be filled again.

Smoko time! (not our food)


Listening to music not only increases speed and accuracy, it also distracts me from my sore back after bending and squatting for hours.

Instant relief is lying flat on a bed of nets

I finally know how the construction workers sitting at the back of the lorry feel. After a hard day's work, everyone hops onto the truck for a thrilling ride to the gate, eager to wash up, prepare meals and recharge for the next day. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Easter Sunday: 2013 Vintage Car Show at Solway Showgrounds

On Easter Sunday, we walked to Te Kairanga (also known as TK) Vineyard, about 22mins walk from where we stay. The Farmer's Market is held on the first Sunday of every month during the summer.

Along the way, we saw the longest rainbow we've ever seen.

Compared to other Farmer's Markets we've been to, this has more free tastings and better quality of food. Try a sandwich from the Greytown Butchery steam train or rosti from the stall next door. I bought five corns (50c each) and got a free zuccini!

We bumped into our friends at TK and tagged along to the Vintage Car Show at the Solway Showgrounds in Masterton. Admission is $2 per adult or $5 for a family. Seven of us went in one car and the person standing at the gate thought we were one family and collected only $5 from us haha!

 The host gives a brief introduction of the vehicle while it parades around the showgrounds. I had little interest in vintage cars though...

Hehe secretly tried to get in for a photo but was found out by the owners moments later whops

The show was held in conjunction with the New Rags Market. There was a wide variety of stalls offering pretty crafts, vintage goodies and food (more free tastings!). It was our last chance to find a decent present here as we were heading to a birthday party in the evening.

Shared a $5 KFC meal for lunch. It has two piece chicken, a small burger, fries and a drink, quite value for money eh?

But the KFC meal was not enough for two person so we were thrilled to see plenty of food at the barbeque!

Yummy Tip Top French Vanilla ice-cream with home-made apple pie for desserts~

Happy Birthday to Frank! Thank you for inviting us. This was the best meal I had in Martinborough!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Easter Saturday in Wellington

I am starting to miss Singaporeans' favourite past time after living in the countryside for a month. Determined to spend Easter Saturday in the city, we diligently woke up at 6.45am to catch the only bus to Featherston and train to Wellington.

First thing we did was to charge to Little Penang (Dixon St) for Hokkien mee and Assam laksa. $12.90 per bowl was quite dear to us but don't care we haven't had this for a long time.

Dropped by Mountain Design to pick up his new sleeping bag

While walking towards Mt Victoria, guess who bumped into? Our friends who took us to Cape Palliser yesterday! They gave us a lift to the top which saved us a lot of time and effort.

It was really quite a long way up lucky we didn't have to climb up to enjoy these panoramic views of Wellington city and harbour.

We followed them to Yan's Supermarket (Hopper St) and we were soooo happy to find fishballs, luncheon meat, soya bean milk, sambal chilli sauce, ikan bilis and lots of other Asian food! You have no idea how deprived we were. THIS WAS HEAVEN TO US! ~*.*~

It'll be quite late by the time we get back so we bought a whole chicken from Moore Wilson for dinner.

Couldn't resist getting some buns and egg tarts for breakfast tomorrow~

Our small mountain of food after today's grocery shopping in town. That should be enough to last us for quite awhile ha!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Friday: Paua, Seals & Singaporeans at Cape Palliser

On Easter Friday, we joined our new friends and their family to catch paua (abalone) at Cape Palliser, about 1.5hrs drive from Martinborough. Stella is from Singapore and her family was in New Zealand for holidays during the Easter break. We were naturally excited to be going out with fellow Singaporeans!

Wild and crazy waves

While our friend went out to recce, we wandered off and found this fella relaxing and enjoying the sun on the shores! Oh so tempted to give it a pat on the head!

It decided to head back into the water and we joined the rest in the paua search, overturning and looking underneath rocks. They are commonly found in shallow coastal waters along rocky shorelines. As they cling quite tightly to rock surfaces, blunt tools are used to prise the sea snails from the rocks.

Laying them on their backs (shells) so they don't stick to the rocks again

While no permit is required for recreational harvesting, there is a catch limit of 10 paua pp per day. Do not take baby or undersized paua as this will threaten the sustainability of paua stock.

No trip to Cape Palliser is complete without climbing the steep steps up to the lighthouse to take in the views of the coast. I found it hard to enjoy the views at the top as the strong winds were making me uncomfortable and so we made our way down after 25 mins.

Views from Cape Palliser Lighthouse

Stopped briefly to take a look at the fur seal colony before heading back. Can’t really see them as they blend in well with the rocks. They weren’t too pleased when we tried to get closer – barking and growling at us to back off.

Washed and scrubbed for nearly two hours...

Paua meat is consumed and the shells are used in Maori carving or made into jewellery. Nothing is wasted. Paua shells make wonderful New Zealand souvenirs – polish with sandpaper for a couple of hours to achieve a beautiful and shiny look.

Dinner consisted of paua slices added in different dishes. Oh they were hard to chew! Remember to tenderise the meat with a rolling pin before cooking. They gave us some to take back and we tried to cook abalone porridge, without much success of course lol.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wellington to Martinborough via Featherston: In a Mess!

We were going to start our next job in Martinborough, a small town in South Wairarapa, 65km east of Wellington. Useless nakedbus doesn't go there so we had to take an hour train from Wellington, get off at Featherston to take a bus to Martinborough and walk another 30 mins to our new accommodation. I had enough of begging others to give us a ride to town to buy groceries so I took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping while I was in Wellington. Carrying two weeks worth of food on public transport is no joke. One bag was destroyed it can't zip and lock anymore. Milk spilled all over the bag, squashed bread, squashed bananas and melted ice cream. Not a good idea after all... Oh bugga!

Yum Cha in Wellington: Regal or Dragons Chinese?

We heard there's good yum cha in Wellington so we told ourselves we definitely must try it while we're in the city. Have been deprived of Asian food for awhile you see. Both Dragons and Regal are located in Courtenay Place and we compared prices between the two restaurants. Dragons was relatively cheaper but it turned out their price list was actually outdated and we only realised they had jacked up prices higher than Regal after we sat down and ordered our food. Felt damn cheated and voiced our displeasure to the manager when footing the bill. He appeared willing to charge us based on the outdated price at first but apparently this was not the case when he sarcastically added "Sure you don't have to pay if you don't want to." ?!?!?! Clearly he was in the wrong for misleading customers! Also, we were told tea was $1.50 per pot but he claimed it's $6. Anyway we only ordered four items and one tea he charged us $20 in total. No idea if his calculation was correct or not. We decided to walk back to Regal and made sure their prices were updated before sitting down. Regal's dim sum taste better probably because service played a part. Their Portuguese egg tarts had a more creamy flavour and I would definitely go back and have some more of those. In conclusion Regal wins hands down in terms of both food and service.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Couchsurfing" with Maori Family

The blueberry season was coming to an end and we needed to find a new job quickly. A vineyard contractor whom we have gotten in touch with offered him a one week assignment to assemble furniture for her client before the start of the grape picking season. As the furniture job only require males, we decided he would head down south first to secure our next job in the vineyard while I continue to work till there's no more work or when the grape picking season starts, whichever is earlier.

I never got to 'continue to work till there's no more work' because of the rain. After he left, it rained for the next two days. One morning, I was about to go up to borrow an iron to dry my clothes when Jacklyn knocked on my caravan door looking serious. "Do you know what just happened?" I shook my head, feeling both puzzled and curious. "We've all been fired!"

I think the "dismissal" happened when I was having breakfast in the kitchen. I overheard other pickers talking to the boss in the shed about wages. The full story shall not be mentioned here. I could sense the tense atmosphere outside so I hid in the kitchen and retreated to my caravan after they were gone lol. Shortly after that, Jacklyn came knocking on my door. I was told that the boss exact words were "I don't want to see all of you after I come back!" I believe he said that in a fit of anger but unfortunately they were upsetting enough to make everyone leave immediately. I was welcome to stay if I want to but if it continues to rain I'll be stuck here with no work and no one will bring me to town. Everyone else had decided to leave and were busy packing. I had to make a decision fast. I lugged my bags to the main road and joined Jacklyn as we waited for our saviour to pick us up.

Remember the Maori family who invited us to their house for hangi? They were so kind to take us in for two nights. We crashed in their spare room and slept on several mattresses stacked up high like Princess and the Pea. It was way more comfortable than sleeping on a dirty couch with no pillow in the cold caravan! They fed us and made sure we felt at home. I love the cultural exchanges we had with them and their sense of humour always crack me up. Though my time with them was short, it was hard to say goodbye to such a lovely family.

I was "fired" and I ended up "couchsurfing". Dramatic ending to my first job in New Zealand.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lost Sheep

This scene reminds me of the children's game in the popular Korean reality show 'Dad, Where Are We Going?' which I have been watching in NZ...


무궁화꽃이 피었습니다!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life in Mamaku

What is life like living on a farm? It's interesting during the first few days but not so fun anymore after spending a month in Mamaku. Behind the lovely scenes of sheep grazing on green pastures were plenty of inconveniences and uncomfortable cold nights. Nonetheless, it was a good experience learning to make do with the simple and crude facilities in the countryside.

Meet the family cat, Blackie, supervising the sheep. Besides growing blueberries, our employers own a big sheep farm too.

Our accommodation on site is in one of these old caravans with no insulation. It was so cold at night we had to plug in an electric heater to stay warm in summer! The rent is $5pp per night including the use of shabby facilities in the shed located about 50m away. This means running with a torch along this stretch of the road to visit the bathroom at night...

Without a car, we were stranded in the countryside - no entertainment or amenities. Luckily, there were kind folks like Ewen and Ngaire who offered to give us a ride to town for grocery shopping. 

This primitive washing machine has no spinning function. To squeeze out the water from our clothes, we have to manually feed every piece of clothing through two rollers like making mee hoon kway. Not much water gets squeezed out and anything with zips or buttons would get stuck. If you're not careful, your fingers might turn into handmade noodles. Dangerous and useless!

Give up la, use hands faster!

No place to hang laundry so we hooked our line in between caravans. Most would end up on the ground because there wasn’t any pegs around. At least I had something to hang our wet clothes...


This was the first night we cooked in the shed. It was past 8pm and we were still stabbing our frozen mince beef. We had no idea the microwave could defrost meat. How embarrassing! T_T

Sharing my tasteless rice noodle soup (I forgot to add seasonings lol) with other pickers

Our cooking journey begins...

A rice cooker appeared in the shed!?