Wednesday

August 24, 2011

High-tailed it to Ko Samui in early August despite having returned from Timor a month ago. My first time there and it was really nice and chilled out. What can I say, I’m a sucker for beachy hangouts.

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Sunday

July 24, 2011

What can i say? Great weekend on so many levels, for so many reasons…

Sunday

February 27, 2011

The week in pictures

the new Art Science Museum

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Tuesday

August 17, 2010

After we climbed Mount Kinabalu last year, Topo said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done physically.

I don’t know about her, but I can now safely say that climbing Mount Rinjani is the toughest thing I have ever attempted.

It looks so benign and  simple but I can only say this because my mind easily forgets pain and hardship.

Day one was tough because it was so long and my muscles weren’t used to the endless hours of walking uphill continuously. Along the way, I also fell after slipping off a particularly sandy slope. Yes, cuts on my face and arm, covered in sand from shoulder to knee. That officially signaled the start of a super unglamorous four days ahead.

Anyhow when we finally neared the first night’s base camp, all my weariness melted away when I saw the view. This was after about seven hours of walking, during which I questioned why I signed up for this gig and what I was getting out of it.

The second day started badly. I probably had one hour of sleep before getting up at 1.30am because i was just not used to the hard ground or the new bedtime — 8.30pm was the new normal. Our guide had said that judging by our speed and dexterity, we needed extra time to get to the summit. So while ‘normal’ people set out at 3am, he suggested we leave at 2am. How’s that for encouragement?

Shree Ann and Topo raring to go.

I on the other hand, felt a headache coming on and wanted to go back to sleep. I so was not feeling the fun. And it was noooo fun at all. From the get go, it was a scramble up rocks and sandy paths in the dark. My legs felt like deadweight not just from having to climb upwards but from having to tense the muscles and prevent myself from slipping back down. Every so often we stopped to rest but the relief would only be momentary.

I have never had a guy put his palm up my butt but I didn’t even bother protesting when our guide just pushed me up to nudge me along. I was so tired and the estimated remaining time never seemed to get shorter. “Maybe another one half hours,” he would say. Whatever, even 20 minutes seemed like an eternity.

After a while, can’t remember how long, I lost track, we got to the really really hard part. Yes this was like watching a horror film which gets progressively worse by the hour, or with each successive sequel.

The last 200 meters up to the summit, famed for being “two steps forward, one step back”. This was at quite a steep incline, with gravel and sand. I’d dig my foot in and feel myself just slipping backwards. Halfway through I really just wanted to give up and not move any more. I unashamedly clung on to our guide to pull me along as all guilt about leaving Topo and Shree to get up on their own kind of disappeared. At one point I turned back and saw Shree on all fours. I think we did it in over an hour. 200 meters.

This is a blur shot because I was too tired to steady my hands, but on the left, one can just make out how steep the slope is.

And yes, we reached the summit a couple of minutes after the sun had risen.

As I was reviewing my photos, I wondered why my summit shots didn’t look that great. And I realized it was because I was sitting for a really long time, too exhausted to stand up to even take pictures. Everything was shot from the ground. Like so.

And

Honestly my first thought upon reaching the top was, thank god it’s over, I never have to do it again. And then my next thought was, how are we ever going to get down? More in the next post.

Monday

August 16, 2010

Finally home after over a week in Lombok and Bali. I’ve spent the better part of today uploading photos.

This is still my favorite underwater photograph, taken at Crystal Bay at Nusa Penida. This was on the failed mola-mola sighting dive but there were so many other small things to look at.

More underwater shots here, albeit less spectacular.

And more tales and pictures to come.

Tuesday

March 30, 2010

If anyone’s looking for something different from the usual sights and sounds in Hong Kong, I highly recommend a trip out to Sai Kung in the New Territories. More specifically, try a hike in the Sai Kung country park along the MacLehose trail.

The entire route spans about 100 km from the Sai Kung coast to the Tai Lam mountain range and is divided into six sections. On moley’s advice, I did the second stage, starting from the East Dam, winding towards Long Ke village and passing through three different beaches.

Hikers are warned that the route is ‘strenuous’ and constantly advised to be well prepared with water, food, back-up mobile phones etc.. I can say it wasn’t that bad. Some parts resembled an incline of 15 on the treadmill but there were also a lot of flat areas. Overall it was a manageable trek, with a mixture of stone paths and paved roads.

After the myriad stages of transport to get from downtown to East Dam, I started my hike at 11.30am. There are no exit points along the entire second stage except for half way at Chui Tung Au so I decided to walk to Ham Tin Wan and then double back to Chui Tung Au, where I would be able to get a cab back towards civilisation.

To cut a long story short, I was at Ham Tin Wan for over an hour. I dipped my toes in the cold water but was too chicken to immerse myself completely. Then I lazed on the sand, napped and got a sunburn. It was worth all the effort.

Including my two hours on the beach, my entire hike took over five hours, with no other breaks. I thought the way out towards the exit at Chui Tung Au would be a short walk but I ended up taking over an hour.  As it was pushing past 5pm I got a bit worried because I had to get back to get ready to attend a concert. Thankfully the taxi calling service came through and I was on my way pretty quickly.

Ham Tin Wan

Nary a soul

Sai Wan village with one or two restaurants and cafes

Saturday

October 31, 2009

I have been thinking of what to say about my trip to Nepal since I came home three days ago. There is just so much to talk about and so many angles it cannot possibly fit into one entry.

I had been looking forward to this for quite a while and I rate it as my best holiday this year, among all my many other short trips around the region. It was something I had never done before and somewhere exotic I had never been before. That in itself was enough to excite me.

As we approached Kathmandu in the early afternoon, we could see Mount Everest from the plane window. From then on I knew this would be an awesome experience.

We took a short, six day trek, the highlight of which was going up to Poon Hill from Ghorepani early on one of the mornings to see some pretty spectacular views of  the Dhaulagiri mountain range. So each day we walked between three and over five hours to get to lodges that dotted the entire circuit. The route itself was pretty easy, with clear paths and rock steps. But it constantly wound through scenic valleys and hills or crossed streams and rivers. Every scene seemed like it was from a postcard.

I felt very removed from urban society and my city life back home. Each day revolved around walking, eating, playing cards, sleeping and just taking in the stunning scenery. When I was in the presence of such natural surroundings, I felt instantly at ease and at peace. That was what living in the moment felt like. Being the slightly type-A person I am, I had to constantly remind myself to take it slow and enjoy everything around me because there was nothing to rush for.

And the Nepali people are so diverse and yet all so gracious, lovely and hospitable. I felt totally safe and welcome. I was very impressed with our guide, who is younger than me but so entrepreneurial and has achieved much more than people twice his age. I realized how lucky we are when he recounted how he had to do self study while enrolled in university as he was always out on treks portering and had to skip classes. Education was important, but for people who came to the city with nothing, jobs and income were even more important, he said.

I am really glad I embarked on this with Yen Han, and Grace, an acquaintance she met on a previous trekking trip in Malaysia. I had never travelled with either of them before but they were really good companions and I think we were a very good fit together.

During our free time when we were all showered and resting our aching muscles and could no longer stomach yet another card game, we had very interesting discussions.  We talked about people, life, love and learned a little about the culture and history of Nepal. I had brought along Pema Chodron’s ‘When Things Fall Apart’ to read and apt as it was given the hypnotic and meditative setting we were in, I scarcely had time for the book.

If anything my time in Nepal further strengthened my belief in the grace of a higher power which blessed us with perfect weather, a near flawless itinerary and a wholesome, nurturing experience.

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