Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Great New Year 2010

Here's wishing that you get ...
The biggest slice of happiness and good luck
to fill your heard and home ..
Today and the whole year through!
Have a great new year ahead!
Keep running, keep trekking and keep fit !!


Here is a quote from a runner friend, SL, who got it from Runner’s World:

Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.

Please click here for Album #4 (final part) of Malakoff 12km Run Kuala Lumpur 2009 at Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club, Kuala Lumpur. Photos courtesy of JASON LEE.

I am sure the girlfriend would be very impressed with the extra hard work (running)

A cheerful finishing

Jason Lee

Posted by KC

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Malakoff Run KL 2009 (3)

Please click here to view photos in Album #3 by courtesy of JASON LEE. Stay tune for final part.

Brothers-in- arms

Posted by KC

Monday, December 28, 2009

Malakoff Run KL 2009 (2)

Please click here to view Album 2 of the photos by courtesy of JASON LEE.

Dress to the occasion

Highly enthusiastic runner

Posted by KC

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Malakoff Run KL 2009 (1)

Event: Malakoff 12km Run 2009
Date: Sunday 20 December 2009
Venue: Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club, Kuala Lumpur.
Please click here to view photos by courtesy of JASON LEE.

Jason Lee

Getting ready for a good run

Highly enthusiastic runner

A good start

Superb shot!

All Cheers!



Posted by KC

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journey to the West - EBC Trekking

Since the trekking trip to EBC (Mount Everest Base Camp), the group does have frequent social gathering together other than trekkings. Do click here for updates ...

(There will be no postings for two weeks; holidaying in Melbourne ... KC)

L-R: Sha Wujing (Sandy), Sun Wukong (Monkey God), Xuanzang (monk), White Horse, Zhu Bajie (Pigsy)

Written by Jayne Aw

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of Journey to the West, a classic Chinese novel that fictionalized the account of the pilgrimage to India by the Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, during the Tang Dynasty to bring back the sutras (Buddhist religious texts). Alongside, he had his disciples namely Sun Wukong (Monkey God), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy), Sha Wujing (Sandy), and a dragon prince (White Horse) to accompany him through the tough journey.

The popularity of Journey to the West stems from the fact that it is an adventure story filled with interesting encounters with the demons and devils who believed they could attain immortality by consuming Xuanzang’s flesh, and how the disciples fought back to shield their master from being hurt in his journey towards enlightenment.

Trekking at the Himalayas had always been a dream that I longed to fulfill, though it wasn’t exactly the path that Xuanzang had taken. So signing up for Everest Base Camp (EBC) trekking was not a tough decision for me, and here I was, heading to Nepal in October 2009, with a group of enthusiastic EBC trekkers (with KC Leong as Team Lead) after months of training and preparation.

Click here for complete photos of Everest Base Camp trip (4 to 20 October 2009; nine postings) by yours truly (KC).

Day 1 - KLIA to Kathmandu (1345m) by flight

13 of us assembled at KLIA at 6am to catch the flight to Kathmandu via transit at Bangkok. After almost 7 hours flight, we arrived at Kathmandu airport and were greeted by the local tour guide Cheban and his assistant Ram.

We were later transferred to Hotel Marsyandi Mandala, near the busy street of Thamel, with 3 of us (Alexis, Sharon and I) sharing a room. Took some time to settle down and got ready for dinner at the nearby Mandap Restaurant & Bar.

I had some ringgits converted to Nepalese rupees for last-minute shopping at Thamel. I bought myself a rain coat and a walking stick, after hearing that the weather was rather wet in the past few days. A disposable poncho might not be good enough to do the job, and the last thing I wanted was to get sick during trekking.We retired early to catch up with a good rest before the start of our long haul trek (12 days) to EBC and Kala Patthar.

At Mandap restaurant... Cheban (left) the trekking agent in Nepal
Day 2 - Kathmandu to Lukla (2840m) by flight – 1st attempt

An early morning start took us to the Kathmandu airport to take a flight to Lukla, which is the starting point for most of the trekking trails in Nepal. Security check at the airport was surprisingly tight, with our bodies and backpacks thoroughly searched. With her newly-cut short hair, Alexis was mistaken as a guy for body search.

Weather didn’t look good and our flight to Lukla was delayed from 7.55am to 10.10am. Finally after a long wait, we got our turn to board the air plane. The plane was manned by a pilot and a co-pilot, and a stewardess who handed us some cotton wool that served as ear plugs, something that we used in the old days to shield our ears from the blasting sound of thunderstorms.

Looking down from the plane, I could see vast expanse of lush green valley dotted with boxes (houses) and white ribbons of gushing streams. At the far horizon, someone pointed to a distant snow capped mountain range amidst fluffy clouds and shouted excitedly, “Mount Everest!” Then everyone was looking out to catch a glimpse of it.

After about 20 minutes of scenic flight towards Lukla, the plane suddenly made a u-turn and was heading back to Kathmandu instead. Due to bad weather, landing at Lukla airport was not possible as visibility was obscured by the blanket of clouds.

We were back to Kathmandu airport at 11am and waited aimlessly for the next available flight, if ever there was one. The departure hall was filled with restless trekkers, with some lying on the floor to catch a nap. We met a fellow Malaysian trekker Radzi who planned to trek to EBC alone while his group of friends would stop at Namche Bazaar.

The long wait dragged us till 3.30pm before we called it a day and rechecked into another hotel in Kathmandu, praying hard that tomorrow would be a fine day for us to land at Lukla.

At Kathmandu airport - The group is getting ready to fly to Lukla, the start of trekking.
Day 3 - Kathmandu to Lukla (2nd Attempt) to Phakding (2610m) 3.5 hours trekking

Today we were still trying our luck to fly to Lukla. This time we left the hotel early at 7.30am and rushed to the airport check-in counter by 8.30am where we were immediately ushered to board the plane. The plane took off shortly at 8.50am. It was a seamless flow and before we could resume our normal breath, the plane was already in the midst of landing at Lukla airport at 9.25am.

We gathered at the teahouse for some refreshment. I was then introduced to the porters and was asked to pick one of them as my personal porter, whom I had earlier set the criteria to be “tall, dark and handsome” (Cheban was rather panic when he read my email request). Looking at the 7 of them, I wasn’t given much of a choice. So I settled for Niraj, a 20 year old Nepalese boy who is an undergraduate in a local university. He was currently on 2-month holiday and would be back to university in November. Journey from his home to university would normally take 5 days. No luxury of taking any form of transportation other than walking. Yes, walk and walk and walk. That’s the way of life in the boundary of Sagarmatha National Park. Working as a porter would earn him some money to cover his expenses away from home.

We started trekking at 10.30am from Lukla, passing through the main street of where the happenings are. There is a Starbuck on my left, Illy on my right, coupled with a sauna centre and numerous internet cafes in between. After 30-minute walk, we reached the welcoming arch to the Sagarmatha National Park, the beginning of the great journey that we were about to embark. As aptly put by Laotse, the great philosopher of ancient China, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lunch break at Thado Koshi Gaon (2580m) at 1pm. Weather was cool amidst drizzle. We continued our journey at 2.45pm after lunch, trekking through the lush green forest lined with pine trees and rhododendron. Crossing numerous suspension bridges over the gushing stream and reached Phakding in an hour’s time. We checked into the Snowland Lodge for an overnight stay.

It was a rainy night, with the rain pattering gently outside, and the heavy bombing (farting) by some of the fellow trekkers inside. I failed to sleep, despite counting yaks and rocks (mind you, there are countless rocks along EBC trail). My buddy was already snoring away. How envious I was and wishing I was the lucky one who snored instead.

Starting the great trekking journey at Lukla ... Pei Ling, Jayne Aw, Alexis, Fiona and Siti
Day 4 - Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m) 6 hours trekking
Early morning call at 6.00am and we started trekking at 7.20am after breakfast. It was another day of raining cats and dogs. The track was filled with mud and dung which were hard to differentiate. Passing through Toktok village after an hour walk and crossing more suspension bridges over Dudh Kosi River before reaching Monjo. Rain continued to fall, with fine droplets teasing lightly across my face and to be lost at the contour of the jaw line. Luckily my shoes were water proof, or otherwise my feet would be soaking wet. And the new rain coat that I bought from Thamel was put in good use.

Tea break at Jorsale at 10.20am for 30 minutes. The journey thereafter was a steep uphill trekking for about 3 hours along a trail crowded with trekkers, yak trains and Sherpas before we reached Namche Bazaar, the commercial hub of Sherpa society with many restaurants, lodges, internet cafés and bakery.

We checked into Moonlight Lodge where I spent another sleepless night, largely due to the effect of high altitude.

Mount Fuji in Nepal?

Day 5 - Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Tengboche (3860m) 4.5 hours trekking

We started with a 2-hour steep ascent to Khumjung (3780m) after breakfast at 7.30am. Meeting groups of children trekking towards Khumjung to attend school that starts at 9.30am. Upon reaching the village, we visited Khumjung Comba Tibetan monastery that houses the Yeti Skull. We continued trekking along Dudh Kosi River after tea at 11am, with a downhill descent for another hour before stopping at Phunki Tenga (3250m) for lunch.
The journey continued with another 1.5 hours uphill trekking until we reached Tengboche at 3.30pm for an overnight stay. Had a karaoke session after dinner, and popped in one Panadol to ease my headache before snuggling into my sleeping bag. It was a cold night.

Childeren attending classes in Khumjung.
Day 6 - Tengboche (3860m)to Dingboche (4410m) 6.5 hours trekking

We left Tengboche at 7.25am, passing the largest Tibetan Monastery in Khumbu, and trekking towards Dingboche for acclimatization. It was a clear day with sunshine, after 3 rainy days. Uphill ascent for about 1.5 hours with a panoramic view of Mt. Ama Dablam (6856m), followed by an hour downhill decent before reaching Pangboche (3930m) for tea. We continued our journey at 10.30am and trekked for another 1.5 hours towards Shomare (4190m) for lunch.

Rustic charm of early autumn scene

Surprised encounter with Joseph Yong, a trekking friend from Malaysia who had just completed his EBC trekking few days ago. We reached Dingboche at 3.45pm. Had another night of karaoke session after dinner, and popped in two more Panadol to ease the headache. Perhaps my body was working hard to adjust to the high altitude and the low oxygen level. Altitude sickness is indiscriminating and could hit anyone irrespective of age, gender and level of physical fitness.

Day 7 - Acclimatisation at Dingboche (4410m) 6.5 hours trekking

Another sunny day with clear blue sky as the rain clouds finally dissipated. We started trekking at 7.20am to Chhukhung (4730m) for acclimatization. Passing through rocky terrain and crossing many bridges, with the spectacular view of Aba Dablam, Island Peak and Lhotse. We stopped for tea at Sunrise Eco Guest House Lodge at 11 am, followed by another 1 hour’s climb to Chhukhung Ri (5550m), where the view of Island Peak came within a touching distance, before heading back to the tea house by 12.30pm for lunch.

Departed Chhukhung after lunch and returned to Dingboche at 3.15pm. Some trekkers were already showing signs of acute mountain sickness (AMS). I too, was having slight dizziness. Yee Choi kept filling our cups with hot water during dinner and told us to keep our body well hydrated. Never mind if we need to get out of the comfy of sleeping bag in the middle of the night to ease ourselves, coz this would be an effective way to counter AMS. I popped in one more Panadol before going to bed, and managed to catch some sleep as affirmed by my buddy who heard me snoring away this time.

Heading to Chhukhung ... Wong, Yee Choi, Jayne and Alexis
Day 8 - Dingboche (4410m) to Lobuche (4910m) 6 hours trekking
I was feeling good today, after a good sleep and the acclimatization. No more Panadol was needed for subsequent days as my body had adjusted well to the high altitude. We departed Dingboche at 7.10 am after breakfast. It was a gentle uphill trekking for about 3.5 hours before reaching Dughla (4620m) for lunch. The trek continued with steep uphill ascent, passing through the valley with magnificent peaks of Taboche, Cholache and Lobuche coming into view, before reaching Lobuche at 2.30pm.

Breathtaking view of mountain range
.Day 9 - Loboche (4910m) to Gorak Shep (5140m) to EBC (5364m) 8 hours trekking

Today was a crucial day for all of us, as it would be a long and strenuous trek to EBC. Weather was perfect with clear sky but amidst cold air. Most of us had put on thermal wears and down jackets, coupled with beanies and gloves.

We departed an hour earlier than usual at 6.30am. After 1.5 hours of trekking through rocky terrain, it was an uphill and downhill walk for another 1.5 hours to Gorak Shep, which is the last station before the ascent to EBC.

We stopped for an early lunch at Gorak Shep at 9.30am, and continued with the journey to EBC at 10.15am. I deliberately slowed down my pace and constantly reminding myself not to rush for it since I had my personal porter to accompany me. Besides drinking lots and lots of water, walking slowly is another good means to avoid AMS by giving the body more time to adjust to the high altitude. Guided by these 2 strategies, I had a humble confidence that I would be able to make it to EBC.

Paradise is just behind me
In such high altitude trekking, there is no room for ego and arrogance. So I zipped my Mr. Ego and Ms. Arrogance into my backpack and handed this burden to my personal porter. Unhurried and unburdened, I strode out leisurely towards EBC, spellbound by the scenic sights of Himalayas that were frozen in time by my camera, while my personal porter kept a constant look at me to check how I was doing.
Stepping over countless rocks, passing by Khumbu Glacier (most of the ice had melted under the clear blue sky), I finally reached EBC at 1pm. Wow, couldn’t believe I was actually standing on top of the base camp of the world’s highest peak! Still trying to ascertain if this was indeed base camp coz there wasn’t any camping tent in sight. It was only later I found out that in each year, only few months were suitable for camping en route to Everest Summit.
Yee Choi handed 2 dried apricots to each of us, and that was the nicest and sweetest apricot I had ever tasted. After taking some photos, we left EBC at 1.30pm and returned to Gorak Shep (Snowland Highest Inn) by 3.30pm for an overnight stay.

Magnificent mountain peak within touching distance at EBC

Day 10 - Gorak Shep (5140m) to Kala Patthar (5550m) to Pheriche (4240m) 8 hours trekking
Having adapting well to the high altitude at EBC, I was back to my normal pace for Kala Patthar climb. We started at an ungodly hour of 5.30am from Gorak Shep in order to catch a glimpse of sunrise at the world’s highest peak.

It was a steep climb all the way to the top of Kala Patthar. My last month of steps training at Batu Caves had helped me to manage this stretch rather well, coupled with the tactic that I used in my last year’s trekking in Sikkim, stopping to gasp few deep breaths after every 30 odds steps. Slowly but steadily, I reached the top at 8.00am. Three of the fellow trekkers had already reached the top. Looking down, the rest were inching their way towards the peak.

The sight at the vantage point was breathtaking with a panoramic view of Himalayan range, though the view of an ice-capped tip of Everest dwarfing behind Lhotse and Nuptse was a bit disappointing. Gazing at the jagged ridge of Everest summit, I was trying to apprehend how those climbers braving sub-zero extremes to scale the summit. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted like me (while my non-trekking friends were trying to apprehend why I came to EBC).

The enormity of the mountain range had a cathartic effect of cleansing and healing. By looking at the gargantuan mountains, one’s heart truly opened up. I stayed for about 45 minutes at the top of Kala Patthar before making my way back to Gorak Shep in an hour’s descent. Late breakfast was served at 9.45am at the Snowland Highest Inn. Thereafter, we continued our journey towards Pheriche, stopping half way at Lobuche for lunch.

Moment of triumph on top of Kala Patthar (5550m)

There is a medical clinic in Pheriche which is funded by Himalayan Rescue Association to treat those trekkers down with AMS, and to educate trekkers on the risks associated with it plus ways to minimize the occurrence. It is primarily run by volunteer staff and since its establishment in 1973, the mortality rate related to AMS had been reduced substantially.

Day 11 - Pheriche (4240m) to Phortse (3810m) 5 hours trekking

After leaving Pheriche at 8am, we crossed the cascading stream with vast expanse of valley in sight. Stone monuments stood in a row along the crest of the moraine in memories to the climbers who had perished on Everest. The trail was followed by a barren rocky terrain overlooking the valley dotted with clusters of houses and cultivated landscapes. It was another hot day with blazing sun but I was well protected by my signature green Arabian hat and sun block cream. I was amazed that I did not get a tinge of sunburn after many days of exposure to hot sun as my other fellow trekkers did. So never mind the odd look of that green hat.

Passing Pangboche and stopping at Gomba Lodge for tea at 11am. We resumed walking at 11.30am, going uphill and downhill over the valley (changing mountains). The sights of helicopters passing through the valley caught our attention for at least 4 to 5 times. These were the rescue operations to bring the affected trekkers from Pheriche clinic to Kathmandu. We reached Phortse at 1.30pm.

Day 12 - Phortse (3810m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m) 5 hours trekking

Departed at 7.15am and shortly after 15-minute downhill walk, it was an uphill ascent all the way until we stopped for tea at 9.45am. We continued with downhill trekking to Chejungma where we had lunch and savored the best yummy apple pies (it was indeed a serendipity considering such remote place on earth). Left the teahouse at 1pm and trekked towards Namche Bazaar, with a stopover at the museum for a brief visit. Put up another night at Namche Bazaar.
Day 13 - Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Phakding (2610m) 8 hours trekking

It was an extremely slow walk today as one of the trekkers was not feeling well. Yee Choi, Fat Wong, Pei Ling and I stayed back to render the necessary assistance. However, as the condition did not improve, we needed someone to carry this trekker.

Four of us were definitely out of the question, let alone any strength after the exhaustive treks to EBC and Kala Patthar. The one and only person left was my personal porter Takur. By the way, Niraj had since been replaced by Takur as my personal porter coz Takur was not feeling well during the trekking to Tengboche. As a personal porter, he carried a lesser load.

Takur looks older than his 40 years, probably due to the weathered face and his skinny frame. He was a far cry from my earlier specs of “tall, dark and handsome”. We were wondering if he could do the job, but what choice did we have?

However, good Takur was like a heaven sent Sandy (Sha Wujing) to help the monk (Xuanzang) who had now manifested in the form of a weak person. He cautiously carried “Xuanzang” on his back, stopping after some steps to take a break. Not an easy feat considering a 50+kgs load versus the normal duffel bag of no more than 20kgs. And the beauty was, like Sandy, he was quiet and never complained. He just carried out his task dutifully and faithfully for his master.

And good old Yee Choi was like the ever mischievous Monkey God (Sun Wukong), swinging his walking stick (much to the like of Wukong’s Ruyi-Jingu-Bang), checking out the trail, looking for available lodges (in case we need to stay back for another night), and giving encouraging words to keep everyone moving.

Fat Wong, for his insatiable appetites for food (he acknowledged that he was the only guy who put on weight while the rest lost weight), he could possibly assume the role of Pigsy (Zhu Bajie).

What role then did Pei Ling and I play? Perhaps the little fairies that helped to hand out some food, water, tissue paper, wet wipe, etc, etc…………

That almost completed the characters of “Journey to the West”, save for white dragon who, as in the novel, had transformed into a white horse that Xuanzang rode on. Our other trekker friend Joseph Yong a.k.a. White Dragon, who befitted this role, had actually flown to Nepal 5 days ahead of us. An EBC reject, he secretly signed up for EBC trekking by himself. Amazingly, he managed to reach EBC but had to skip Kala Patthar due to snow storm. We bumped into him while trekking from Tengboche to Dingboche. What a surprise and kudos to him for making it to EBC.

After 5 hours of grueling walk, we reached Jorsale at 12.45pm for lunch and stopped by for almost 3 hours for a good rest before we resumed our journey to Phakding at 3.30pm.
Halfway through, 3 more porters came to our aid and took turn to assist “Xuanzang”. That however, did not prevent us from trekking into the dark, for by 5.30pm the sun had already set beyond the horizon and the sky was turning pitch dark. We needed torch light and headlight to show us the trail. That was probably our first experience of night trekking in Nepal.

Finally we reached Phakding at 6.30pm. It was a long day considering that we left Namche Bazaar at 7.45am that morning, plus a great experience of the “Journey to the West”.

Day 14 - Phakding (2610m) to Lukla (2840m) 3.5 hours trekking

We left Phakding at 9am and trekked leisurely to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery for the last day. Holding on to our cameras, we captured more photos as we need not worry about the battery reserves. Finally and finally, we reached Lukla at 12.30pm and that marked the completion of our EBC trekking. Couldn’t wait any longer, I paid 250 rupees to the lodge owner and dashed towards the bathroom for a nice hot shower. Phew! 12 days without bath was indeed a new record for me (the last time was 8 days in Sikkim). Thereafter we hanged around at the internet café to catch up with emails, and savored some of the cakes at the nearby bakery.

Don't hurry, don't worry. You're here only for a short visit. So be sure to stop and smell the flowers
.Day 15 - Lukla to Kathmandu by flight

After bidding farewell to the porters, we left Lukla by plane to Kathmandu. Cheban arranged for local sight-seeing around Kathmandu, followed by an evening shopping at Thamel after dinner.

Day 16 – Leisure day in Kathmandu

We had another leisure day to spend in Kathmandu. Some of the trekkers went for white water rafting while the rest stayed back to do some shopping. PK, Fiona and I took a rickshaw ride to the nearby market looking for some spices. It was crowded with locals as there was a procession in the vicinity of the market.

In the evening, we were invited for a farewell dinner hosted by Cheban.

Day 17 – Last day in Kathmandu to KLIA by flight

Today was our last day in Kathmandu. I did my last minute shopping at Thamel to pick up some fleece jackets that were on sale, plus some fridge magnets as souvenirs for friends. We departed at 10.30am to Kathmandu airport to catch the flight back to KLIA via transit at Bangkok.

Ending of “Journey to the West”
As in the novel, Xuanzang and Monkey God attained Buddhahood at the end of the journey, while Sandy became an arhat, and White Dragon was made a naga. And Pigsy……..well he was promoted to an altar cleanser, i.e. eater of excess offerings at altars.

As for me, enlightened I have not, but lightened definitely yes coz I have lost 2kgs during trekking. However I have since put back the lost kilos within a week of gastronomic feast on my favorite local delights, short of becoming an altar cleanser! Indeed some of the fellow trekkers had lost more kilos and looked almost like my personal porter, more so with the weathered sun-burnt face.

Did I finally get a “tall, dark and handsome” personal porter? Yes…… for in Takur, lies a beautiful soul.

And thanks to the countless rocks at EBC, I have since shifted my passion for counting money (yes, an accountant by profession) to counting rocks ...

Years of dreaming
Months of training
Days of walking
Hours of suffering
Minutes of panting
Seconds of hoping
Moment of triumph

Jayne Aw
November 2009

Click here for complete photos of Everest Base Camp trip (4 to 20 October 2009) by yours truly (KC).

P/S: I would like to record my thanks to all EBC team members for making this journey a memorable one; special thanks to KC Leong for leading the team; and personal thanks to Alexis for folding my sleeping bag on daily basis while I was recuperating from a fractured wrist. Cheers!
Posted by KC