Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sleeping in Open Air at 4,500 ft

During my travels to Nepal last September, we trekked to a village called Kyangjin Gompa in the Langtang region.

The highlight of Kyangjin Gompa is the Kyangjin Ri mountain which stands at 4,700 ft asl.

We stayed at Panorama Guesthouse when we were in Kyangjin Gompa. That morning we woke up early, had breakfast and started our trek.

The trail was relatively steep (something like an incline 5 if comparing with a threadmill) with loose stones. So we had to watch our steps to make sure we don't slip and fall down the mountain.

Along the way were were rewarded with this magnificent view (can't remember the name of the mountain) opposite Kyangjin Ri:

Panorama shot



I snapped a photo of Nobita snapping a photo of that mountain :-)




As we went higher and higher, it started getting hotter, so we started removing a few layers of clothing. The importance of layering ...

Here's a photo of Kyangjin Gompa village where we started our trek that morning:

Kyangjin Gompa village looks so small from up there.



The Kyangjin Ri mountain is 4,700 ft asl. However since the weather was not too favourable, I had already made up my mind to stop at 4,500 ft asl. No point trekking all the way to the peak because there's a high possibility that it would be cloudy and misty, which means no breathtaking views.

There was a rock at the 4,500 ft spot that was perfect as a resting place. It was slightly bent in the middle where I could place my bum and lie down. Perfect!

So the rest of them continued their trek while I waited for them at this spot: 

That's the peak of Kyangjin Ri. Looks pretty steep from this angle.



When the others continued their trek to the peak, I didn't have the faintest idea how long it would take for them to return to the spot and pick me up on their way down. So I walked around the area and snapped shots of the glacier like this: 

Can you see the mist at the top of the photo? That's the reason why I didn't want to hike to the peak.



Can you spot my blue windbreaker and red backpack in this photo?: 




After snapping enough photos of glaciers and customary selfies using my camera and mobile phone, I thought why not lie down on the rock and look at the mountains from a different angle.

Since I was to face the sun, I put on my windbreaker and pulled my bandana-like headwear closer to cover my face to avoid sunburn (sun rays are pretty harsh at that altitude).

I laid down on the comfy rock and gazed up at the sky. The stillness of the morning coupled with the the magnificent mountain ranges around me was surreal. It gave me a sense of wonder and I felt a deep connection with God and nature. I felt ALIVE.

I dozed off at one point and woke up with a start to realise that I was completely surrounded in mist. I couldn't even see 5m in front of me. But the mist soon let up and the sun came up again.

Soon a few other trekkers started coming up the mountain. They were curious at what I was going there all alone. Some of them took the opportunity to rest on the rocks and even shared their sweets with me :-)

As I was talking to a group of trekkers, I could hear my group calling me as they were coming down the mountain. Soon they reached my spot and we trekked back to Panorama Guesthouse in Kyangjin Gompa. All in I had waited for them for about 2 hours.

My trip to Nepal in September 2016 was not too good because we didn't make it to Everest Base Camp and Langtang was dangerous. But the experience of alone time on the mountain and with nature didn't make the trip seem so bad after all.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - Not many travels but lotsa learning

At the end of each year, I go through my customary look back at the year.

I travelled to only 2 places in 2016. But there were many learning opportunities throughout the year to improve my career prospects, health and just for the sake of pursuing passion. Here goes:


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Travelled to Nepal (again!). Was supposed to do Everest Base Camp but was unsuccessful because we couldn't fly into Lukla where the trek begins. You can read all about it here.


View of Kathmandu city from the rooftop of Hotel Yambu.


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Travelled to Kuching, Sarawak for the first time. Went there to participate in the Kuching Marathon.

Also took the opportunity to visit some interesting sights in Kuching and gluttoned all the way with Kuching food.


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Took part in 2 fun runs: Kuching Marathon and Score Run.

Finishers medal.


I also registered for the Precious Ladies & Men's Possible Run on 12 December 2016 but didn't go because it was raining that morning.

Will be doing my first 10km on 8 January 2017 at the MPI Generali Run. Keeping fingers crossed that I'll be able to complete the race within 1 hour 15 minutes which is the time limit I've set for myself.


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Enrolled for the Chartered Bankers course offered by the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers. 

I completed my first module, Marketing and Selling in Financial Services on 20 November 2016.

I've got 2 more papers to sit in April 2017 before I move on to the final level, i.e. Chartered Bankers level.

This is how the study text look like.


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Started taking up tai chi and completed learning the 37 steps, Cheng Man Cheng style on 19 October 2016.

Attended push hands technique workshop on 21 October 2016 at Cova Square in Kota Damansara. The workshop turned out to be a self defence class instead of push hands which was a disappointment. What a bloody waste of RM399.00.


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Completed a Basic Nail Course where I learned to give a manicure, pedicure and buffing amongst other things.

Somehow I've developed an interest in making nails look pretty and healthy. I still need to work on my nail polish application though, to make it look flawless.

My manicure/pedicure kit which is included in the fees. 


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Added 4 Hard Rock Cafe bottle openers to my collection, i.e. Amsterdam, Helsinki, Pattaya and Yokohama.


I could have added Lisbon, Macau and Munich to the collection, but was on a cost discipline exercise. Hard Rock Cafe bottle openers don't come cheap, you know ...


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Started embracing a minimalist lifestyle because we actually don't need much to live. Having less stuff also means more space to free my flat and mind. Cleaning my flat is also so much easier with less stuff lying around.

I started this minimalist lifestyle by slowly decluttering my stuff using the Konmari method. It's a slow process but I'm getting there.


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Happy New Year 2017 everyone !



Sunday, 18 December 2016

Updates in the Langtang region after the earthquake (as of September 2016)

In September 2016 when we went to Nepal and couldn't do Everest Base Camp because of bad weather, we diverted our trekking endeavours to the Langtang region instead.

The Langtang region was one of the most affected in the 25 April 2015 earthquake that crippled the trekking industry in Nepal. Langtang was officially closed to trekkers after the earthquake and reopened in April 2016, one year after the disaster.

Here are some updates about Langtang (as of September 2016):

1) Landslides and rockfalls haven't been cleared yet

Here's a photo of a landslide that have not been cleared yet:



Some village were flattened by the earthquake and villagers just rebuilt their homes next to the landslide, like this:



2) Trekking was dangerous

Because of the uncleared landslide and rocks, there were loose stones and sand in many parts of the trek which made it difficult and dangerous. The cold, wet and miserable weather didn't help either.

There was one part of the trek where we had to cross a rockfall of loose stones and sand on a mountain's ledge. The path was on a 45% gradient and was so narrow that we could only place one foot in front of the other. If the stones and sand had given way, I would have tumbled into the raging waters below and be swept away.

Our guide Sujan was holding onto me while Ram our potter took my trekking pole and widened the path for me to step on. Here's a photo of a similar path (obviously I couldn't take a photo of the real path because I was holding onto Sujan for dear life!):



The Langtang trek was by far the most dangerous trek compared to my previous treks to Poon Hill (October 2012) and Annapurna Base Camp (May 2014).

It was unfortunate that we trekked Langtang at the end of September 2016 because it was just after the monsoon season and still raining on most days. With the rain came the blood sucking leeches constantly trying to lodge itself onto our clothes and skin. Each time we reached a pitstop, I asked Sujan and the others to help check whether there were any leeches on me. All in I got bitten 4 times.

Because of the cold, wet and miserable weather, the paths were muddy, slippery and difficult to trek.

The views were also blocked by clouds and mist most of the time.

Worst is that our clothes could not dry and we had to carry damp clothing in our knapsack.

After almost a week in such conditions, I decided to breakaway from my 2 fellow trekkers and head back to civilisation to a small town called Dhunche while the rest continued their trek to Gokyo Ri.

The main road that runs through Dhunche.


Thankfully the weather in Dunche was sunnier and I didn't feel so miserable. I could dry my clothes at the top of my guesthouse while admiring a view like this:



3) Limited facilities

Facilities like guesthouses are located far and wide. This affected our timing, especially for lunch. You see, if there are numerous guesthouses along the trek, we could stop at whichever guesthouse when it was lunch time.

Since the guesthouses in Langtang were scattered sporadically, there were times when we had to have lunch earlier around 11.30am because we would reach the next guesthouse at about 2.00pm only. Sometimes there were no guesthouses at all and we had to stay hungry till 2.00pm. Luckily we had biscuits, chocolates and snacks to give us energy till the late lunch.

Despite the limited number of guesthouses, some of the guesthouses were newly built after the earthquake. So we had the privilege of enjoying brand new facilities like this guesthouse here:
 
Summit Guesthouse in Thangshyap (tseringphinjo@gmail.com)


4) Less trekkers

There were not many trekkers around when we were there. This could be because of the limited facilities and also because it was not the height of the trekking season. In fact we were practically the only ones in most of the guesthouses.

According to our guide, most trekkers prefer the Annapurna and Everest region which were not largely affected by the earthquake. Like what I told my fellow trekkers, Everest and Annapurna are 'brands' of the mountaineering world. And peope always want to be associated with big brands.

If you tell people that you trekked in the Langtang region in Nepal, their response would most probably be, "Where?" You will definitely not get such a response if you mention Everest.


5) The locals are still recovering from lost of loved ones

The locals plant flags in the spot where their loved ones perished in the earthquake:



During our 2-nights stay at Panorama Guesthouse in Kyangjin Gompa ...



... I saw this collage of earthquake victims located in the common area:


The staff at the guesthouse told us that these victims were family members of the guesthouse owner.

In the evening, the guesthouse owner's old father would come to the guesthouse to ring a bell:



He was like in a trance each time he rang the bell and I could not help staring at him. He must be pining for the lost of his loved ones. Imagine being left all alone after losing your family members in the earthquake. After ringing the bell for a good 10 minutes or so, he would tuck into dinner prepared by the staff there.

The locals were not the only ones who lost loved ones in the earthquake. Take a look at this plate on one of the rocks in Kyangjin Gompa:



In conclusion

Nepal being a nation that relies heavily on its trekking industry to fuel its economy will definitely get back on their feet again after the earthquake.

We all need to give them a chance and visit them irrespective of whether you're a trekker or not. There other things to do in Nepal apart from trekking like visiting the Chitwan National Park to spot the one-horn rhino. Just remember not to visit Nepal during the monsoon season (June - August) or in September because you'll be acquainted with lotsa leeches.

This sentence at the back of our bus from Dhunche to Kathmandu captures the resilience and determination of the Nepalese people:




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