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:




Sunday, 27 November 2016

Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro - Absolute Battery Power

I don't usually blog about the stuff I use in my travels because I'm not paid to do so. But I'm going to make an exeption this time because I'm really impressed with the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro especially its battery power.

During my recent trip to Nepal, this phone with the mother of all battery power (5,000 mAh capacity) lasted 9 days in the Langtang region without having to recharge. Incredible isn't it?

How I did it?

First of all, I switched the phone to flight mode at all times. In case you may not know, in flight mode all apps and whatnot in the phone are shut down and this saves alot of power. There was no coverage or Wifi in the mountains, so we didn't need to use any of our apps. However in flight mode I still could take loads of photos, especially since this mother of all phones has a 32GB internal memory and a 16MP camera.

Secondly, I switched off the phone at night and kept it close to my body to help preserve its power. Batteries die faster in cold conditions, you know.

My other 2 travel companions with lesser mortal phones were always on the lookout for powerpoints at every pitstop in the trek to charge their phones. And in the mountains, powerpoints can sometimes be difficult to find. For me, I didn't have to go through all that hassle because I had the mother of all phones.
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