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14 December 2011

Christchurch Kia Kaha

AirAsia Social Media team

By AirAsia Social Media team

*NOTE: The writer is superbly guilty for her overdue post on her experience to Christchurch during AirAsia X’s inaugural flight to the city on 1st April 2011.

“Baa, baa, black sheep~ Oh no, wait, moo~~~~”

“New Zealand is such a boring place – they only have sheep!”

Those were the response I received when I told my friends that AirAsia X is launching Christchurch (back in 2010) and I was determined to prove them wrong? How? By grabbing the promo fare when we launched the sales – without a single clue about what I want to do in Christchurch.

And guess what the return of this impulse decision was? I spent the most memorable April Fool ever by boarding AAX D7 2754 to Christchurch, New Zealand. There were many “first-time-moments”: first time in New Zealand, first time on AirAsia X, first time attending press conference for inaugural flight, fist time experiencing autumn, first time on a hot air balloon, first time celebrating one of our Guest’s birthday onboard!

Clockwise from top left : Mrs Poh celebrated her 54th birthday (a surprise arranged by Mr Poh along with AirAsia X’s CEO Mr Azran Osman-Rani & the crew), Maori performers, group picture taken during the press conference, group photo up in the air! Can you spot Azran – CEO of AirAsia X in the photo?

Now, months before the trip happened, I have no clue what I want or will be doing over there, I even planned to sleep my days off! I was telling my friends that I am going to fool myself in Christchurch.

Luckily my colleagues were there to prepare for the press conference hence I managed to tagged along with them for the hot air balloon ride with Up Up and Away – where we cruised and experience Canterbury beautiful landscape at 2300 feet up in the air. An amazing and unique Xperience – plan it into your trip if you are heading to Christchurch ‘cos you won’t regret it!

Clockwise from top left : Finger of fire – trying to be cheeking while the rest working on setting up the hot air balloon including Azran (hahaha!), overview of Canterbury landscape, the only sheep I saw in New Zealand, breathtaking view from the hot air balloon.

Not convinced yet? Check out what Azran, CEO of AirAsia X got to say :

One of the thing I wanted to do was to cycle around the city hence I made some effort to wake up early one morning, to check out the City Center although there isn’t much to see since a lot of the tourist attractions are closed and will remained close likely for the next 6 to 12 months according to the locals.

The weather remained wet that morning but it didn’t stop me from getting my ride. I was determined although the hotel staff was rather concern as suggested I can walk with an umbrella instead because Christ College (one of the place that I wanted to check out) is just 2-minutes walk from the hotel.

I insisted to cycle. Which I do not know whether it was my stubbornness or that I’ve paid 25 NZD for bike rental. Ha-ha, I can’t tell even till now but the 25 dollars I spent was the best spent money ever.

So with my sling bag, 3 layers of clothing (my winter long sleeve shirt, my chequered shirt and my jacket) and a raincoat provided by the helpful staff at The George’s – I set out for wet adventure (this sound wrong…)

Clockwise from top left : My faithful partner – Mr.Bike, Christ College, signage on the road, part of the beautiful Hagley Park.

Cycling around Christchurch was simply marvellous! You get to see the city in a faster manner and less tiring (I do think walking would be more tiring). Equipped with a map from the hotel & a little guide book, I cycled around to my heart’s content. I stopped every now and then to take photos of the city : Christ’s College (reminds me of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five), Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Arts Centre, Christchurch’s Botanical Garden, passes by statues of famous people in Christchurch (Moorhouse, James Edward Fitzgerald – First superintendent of Canterbury, C.P Hulbert -Mayor 1885, Gordon Ogilvie -Historian & Biographer are among the few).

And then I headed to Hagley Park which I was initially planning to do some runs as a training for my upcoming marathon but it didn’t happened as I didn’t have much time and I forgot my running shoes.

I cycled closed to half of the park – my rough estimation because I choose the pathway as I like, mostly path that looks off beaten because it seemed much more fun and I was right. One of the paths heading toward The Kate Sheppard Memorial Walk was lovely – it is just next to the Avon River and I believe it is the closest one can get to the river.

Clockwise from top left : “Broken but still beating the Heart of Christchurch is People like Us!”, Statue of James Edward Fitzgerald – the first superintendent of Canterbury, lane for people and bicycle, rain or shine – it won’t stop joggers from having their morning run around the City Center!

The weather hasn’t been too kind because it was drizzling at first and gets heavier every now and then. But I had fun.

Curious of how the City Center looks like, I cycled my way toward the Cathedral Square from the Canterbury Museum (it is less than 2 minutes cycle). If you are not sure if you can go to the direction you would like to head to, just ask the people around – basically the army, police or the people who are involved in the rebuilding.

One thing that I regretted was not asking about the Cathedral Square from the army who is stationed at the bridge in the City Center. Generally I was too shy (alas, what a waste. Especially the fact that the army guys are cute! Actually cute do not justified their looks; I should say they are hot & good looking).

Clockwise from top left : Heartwarming messages for the earthquake victims, recovering process, one of the affected buildings, one of the army trucks that you can spot around the City Center.

I cannot explain my feeling when I saw buildings which were affected by the earthquake, especially historical and iconic places – numerous churches, the Cathedral Square, the museums. There were also some buildings where I believe there have been fatal casualties as there were flowers left on the fences. I am saddened but it also feels unbelievable. That the force of Mother Nature can be unforgiving and we are only at its mercy. That is how scary earthquake or Mother Nature can be.

Did I mention that all the roads are bicycle and pedestrian friendly? And cars will stop for you if you wait at the zebra crossing – even if there is no traffic light! I wasn’t used of it because that would almost never happened back in Kuala Lumpur. Parts of the park or garden are off limits to bicycle but you can take an alternate route or park your bicycle at the area prepared which is very convenient.

The presence of police and army are everywhere in the city but they are friendly people – if you are lost or need a direction, just ask them and they will be more than happy to help. No questions? Just smile! Don’t be surprised if they say hello or wishes you good day – hadn’t I mentioned, they are friendly people? Even at difficult times as these, they are very happy to welcome us to their City Centre. They stand strong amid this difficult time which is why I named this post as Christchurch Kia Kaha, which in Maori means “Be Strong”.

Like any other trips, souvenirs shopping is a must but I’ve discovered that shopping for food souvenirs is so much more fun than the standard fridge magnets and T-shirts because supermarkets/grocery stores are filled with food items that we can’t get back home. What do you think? 😀

Two earthquakes were recorded while I was here. One was scale at 3.2 Richter and another one was 4.0 Richter. I felt the 3.2 Richter as I was sleeping. My bed moved and I sprang up but it didn’t last more than 2 seconds so I thought it was me dreaming but guess what, I experienced an earthquake after all. And there is nothing to worry about as long as you take precaution.

The feeling of leaving Christchurch was rather unreal. I do not know why but it feels like it has just been a dream to me when I boarded the plane to Kuala Lumpur. I started to miss Christchurch even before the plane took off – there is something about the city that is keeping a part of my soul here. Is it the friendly people that I met or that I just love the shopping there so much?

There was a drive that making me determine to come back to this beautiful city soon (*NOTE: And this came true in June 2011, when I tagged along AirAsia X Ultimate NZ Action Hero’s journey! But let’s save that for another time)

Have I fooled myself? Yes, like a fool in love, I’ve fallen in love with this beautiful city and full of nature wonders.

p/s: If you missed out the photo album of our inaugural flight to the Middle Earth, check it out here : http://on.fb.me/q2blPh

SP (AirAsia Social Media Team)