8 things that happened in Japan

Japan is a trending travel destination, but there’s more to the land of the rising sun than just the Shibuya scramble crossing, Sakura petals, and quirky street fashion. Of course, it is impossible to do all there is to do in Japan in just one visit. Among the plethora of things that I’ve experienced in Japan, here are a few that stood out:

1. Lost in Translation

There are too many places to visit, and asking for directions is not an easy task, especially when the only japanese sentence I know was “Sumimasen, Nihongo ga wakarimasen” — Excuse me, I don’t understand Japanese. In between asking for “Mizu Samui” — direct and incorrect translation of Cold Water — and “Intaneto Paswerdo”. Ditching my English itinerary, and saying “hai” (yes) to everything, I found myself lodged in Buddha’s nose, in a public bath with hundreds of naked men, and in Gion with a Geisha on my side — not naked.

Where am I ?

2. The enchanting Geisha

It is easy to get yourself into the habit of harassing Geishas with your camera, instead, show some respect and say “Kirei desu” and you’re sure to be melted by their acknowledgement. Remember, it’s “Kirei” (beautiful) not “Kirai” (hate). Make sure to drop by Gion Corner in Kyoto to get a glimpse of dancing Geishas and other performances.

geisha

3. Cycling in Kyoto

If you decide to cycle in Kyoto, you might want to do it over a few days because Kyoto is Huge. I rented a bicycle, and we made too many long stops and ended up cycling more than we would like. It was however, an amazing experience. I just wished people wore helmets. Though on a side note, people drive very slowly in metropolitan area.

Are we there yet ?

4. Temple/Shrine Hunting

The one with orange gates ? The one that is gold ? Oh, Fushimi Inari ! Kinkakuji ! Ginkakuji ? Kiyomizu Dera ? After Kyoto, you might want to rethink your temple obsession, and no, they’re not all temples, there’s shrines too. Each one unique and have great stories backing them up. My favourite part is however the zen gardens. I could imagine myself sipping a hot cup of green tea on a rainy day. Speaking of rain, check out this never ending flow of water.

kiyomizu

Fitri, sometimes I wonder, why on earth are you fascinated by simple things!

5. Temple Lodging

Not a lot of people get to visit Koyasan, I remember walking around town in the evening and I swear I was the only one roaming around. Knowing at the end of the town, there’s Japan’s biggest graveyard. It’s scary and calming at the same time. But associating ghosts with the death is disrespectful so there’s no room for horror stories in this area. And not only out of respect, the place is too beautiful to even think about Sadako — Thank god there’s no TVs.

stay

6. Walked a graveyard and loved it

A visit to Koyasan is not complete without a visit to Okonuin. My favourite place for this Japan trip. There’s something about walking along giant cedar trees, with mist still hovering above the tombstones and cobblestone pathway, alone. The snow adds to the already mesmerizing ambient.

okonuin

7. Braved the Onsens

Right after coming back to Osaka from Koyasan I went straight to Spa world to have a quick bath. I thought that it’ll be deserted during post-lunch time but man I was wrong. It could not be any more packed. But heck, I had already paid so I rushed through the crowd with a small towel barely covering anything and straight into the wrong pool. The freezing cold pool. After a minute or so I decided to rush to a warmer pool. And finally relaxed for half an hour or so, trying not to gawk at passerby.

Chacha Dance

8. Saw more animals than I thought I would

Even in the bigger town, Nara, there’s deers roaming around freely on the park, street and buildings. Some were just busking while others, terrorizing the mini shops around the park. There are several cat cafe’s in Osaka that you could try and If you find yourself in Arashiyama, pay a visit to the Monkey park. It’s a tough hike (they didn’t advertise this) but the view and monkeys made the hike up worthwhile.

hellodeer

So what are you waiting for, get out there.

It’s more fun in the Philippines

A few months ago, I found myself pondering upon a few Facebook status updates. I got myself thinking, “Man, I wish I could travel like these guys” and it came across to me as quick as thunder, “you can!”. A long weekend was near the horizon, flights were on sale. Circumstances was on my side.

Like always, I wanted to keep it a secret and like always, I’m too excited to contain it. A few friends decided to tag along this time. Why not coconut ?

We arrived at dawn, red eyed. We had work the day before and didn’t get the chance to catch quality sleep before the midnight flight. But heck I have my friends with me, the “bachelor party” had just started. Off from the airport and straight into the oldest part of Manila, the Intramuros.

Intramuros Manilla

My jaw dropped. This wasn’t the Manila I imagined. You can read about Intramuros yourself but the quickest way to learn about it is to visit it yourself. We did the bambike tour, which is a cycling tour on a bamboo bike. My favourite part about the tour is probably towards the end, at the fort. It was Jose Rizal last place before his execution. I’m not usually a fan of heroic figures but the story of Jose Rizal is as inspiring as it is sad.

We spent the rest of our first day sleeping as we have an early start the next day. How earlier could we start our day right ? not much, just at 2am.

There we were, standing. Did I shower ? I couldn’t remember but I remembered that my bag was wet from a hole in my camelpack. I ran towards the nearest 7eleven and when I got back, I had the worst seat in the van. Great! 3 hours ride without a headrest. I made myself comfortable in the most awkward position possible. When we arrived , it was in a small village with folks trying to sell us makeshifts walking stick. I didn’t need it, as i found out during my Everest trip, it was more troublesome than useful for short hikes like this. Unless you have a bad knee, which in that case, it’s a must.

Jeep Pinatubo

From there we needed to ride a Jeep to navigate the moonscape plains towards the base camp. My blood was already pumping, I wasn’t sleepy anymore. On the ride I find myself smiling the whole time. This is my place, the time when I feel most at home, the time when I am the happiest. The view was amazing and the company made it even greater. I glanced at my friend, he was in awe. It was probably his first time seeing such amazing view. He understood now why I did these crazy things.

Then we arrived to this place that seems like it’s a mining site. Uninteresting valley that gradually reaches a higher altitude. A 600m ascent if I’m not wrong. Weather was cool but warm enough for just t-shirts. Halfway there we met the locals. Didn’t get the chance to communicate but it is from this hike that they get their income, just like the Sherpas. They didn’t ask for anything but shouted “picture!” so I took this photo of them. We continued our hike.

Pinatubo local

Surprisingly, it was getting lush. It’s the opposite of all the other mountains I’ve been to (as if I’ve been to a lot) There was more plantation near the crater than they had on the basecamp. As we reached the top, ego sets in. I was slightly behind but I decided to sprint up, I was the organiser so I wanted to be the first to see the crater. I was right, it’s always better than the photos. Much more. And the guys didn’t expected the view.

Pinatubo Crater Lake

We stood on the rim for a while before rushing downhill towards the lake. I wanted to jump so bad but the government had banned swimming because of an incident a few months back. So I sat there for hours while waiting for the other groups to gradually arrive. We had lunch, my friends along with our new companies.

Our descent didn’t matter that much, we slept most stretch on our way back to Manila. We had dinner and then straight to the haystack.

Group photo pinatubo

Woke up late the next morning. We got our ticket value back. Spent BND$300/USD$230 on this trip, all included. So we were too lazy on our 3rd and final day. I decided to dedicate the whole day to spend with a Couchsurfer that I met in Brunei. We spent the day eating and visiting malls (we weren’t shopping). After thinking a lot about it, we decided to try Balut. Now we can argue all day whether it’s ethical or halal but hey, when in Manila right ? It tasted okay though I didn’t like the texture. Once, that’s enough I guess.

Balut eating

It was work day the next day and we found ourself chilling in a high end cafe which is also the spot for to be frank, high end prostitutes. Which is according to the local, sometimes more pinoy than pinay. wink2. My manager texted me “go home now”, it was 9pm. For some reason, it felt good.

Woke up late the next day but made it just in time for work. “How’s you weekend?”, I imagined someone asking. It was an awesome weekend.

Istanbul, aku datang, maybe

Istanbul is understandably a holiday paradise (read: tourist trap) for South East Asian. Everywhere I walk, “Asalamualaikum, Malaysian ? Singaporean ? Indonesian ?”. No, no and no. I walked pass in frustration, Istanbul left me with a bad impression. I felt bad, why was it so hard to fall in love with a beautiful place ? was it the weather ? or perhaps the cheating taxi driver ? or the unwelcoming glances ? I heard so many good things about Istanbul that I came with my chest wide open only to be left disappointed on the tourist laden cobble street of Sultanahmet.

Processed with Rookie

I was looking forward to the Basillica cistern that I had imagined to be other worldly only to find it much smaller and less ornate. At least blue mosque was welcoming, it was after all, a mosque. I prayed inside after ablution, the water, much colder than the winter air. Thought to myself, maybe Istanbul just needed more time. There’s hidden jewels somewhere in the nooks and crannies, good people waiting to be friends somewhere. I just couldn’t find them, well except for a name, Hafiz Mustafa, who I will always look forward to meet. So I left Istanbul, in a state of no hate nor love. It just needed more time which I didn’t have at that time.

PechaKucha Presentation : Transition

Fitri Ali tells of how he travels solo to look for ‘it’. Instead of discovering who he is, as originally expected, Fitri finds himself on an enduring and delightful journey of becoming the sum of all the people he met. He continues to look for ‘it’ and rests happily in the possibility that he may never know what that may be.

Or if you prefer to see me while I present.

Everest Basecamp Trek – Part 3

Finally, last of the Everest Basecamp Trek series. I wish I could write more about this journey because I have learnt so much from it but I’ll probably bore you, so I’ll leave those stories for my future children. Through thick and thin we continued our trek, I could have not done it without the support of the strangers I met along the way. Strangers who are now friends.

[Bikas, Henry, Me, and Nadejda]

May 27th – Trek day 10

Descended more than 900m from Gorekshep to Pangboche. My most painful and agonizing 6 hours walk ever. On top of that, we were walking in a snow storm. It’s hard to believe my symptoms are mild. Nevertheless, trekking with altitude sickness sucks but upon loosing 400m or so, I regained my appetite. Hangriness lingers and my altitude sickness cured. But that’s nothing compared to what will happen the next day, though I stand with my thought that nothing is worst than altitude sickness. The guy next door at Gorekshep had it worst, he was puking all night and even after losing attitude, he’s still very sick. None of us ended up on top of Kalapathar because of the storm.

On our way to Labouche[Singing songs from Frozen, in my head]

Drying our clothes at Pangboche[All those snows were bound to melt]

May 28th – Trek day 11

The sickness gone, the storm lingers. We had it all today, Snow, rain and sun. It’s as if the ice had followed us from Gorekshep. Thanks to a girl from two days before, I find myself singing songs from Frozen.

Wet from waist downwards, I was looking forward to ending the supposedly 5 hours walk. But Allah’s test didn’t end with altitude sickness. Less than one hour after our descend, we were greeted by clamors of falling rocks. Landslide on the other side of the valley, we were stranded. That or a long walk back to where we started and taking a very long alternative route.

We were left to either taking the risk of crossing the landslide like some others did, or to take an alternative route. Thankfully, or perhaps not so, there’s another alternative route. To cross the bridge, walk upstream, and trek over the landslide.

I thought to myself, “How is this safer than crossing the landslide ?”. I heard people signaling others while they evade the falling rocks further downstream. Me, I’m somewhere else, stuck between trees, roots and a steep downhill. Slipping but not falling. Refusing to look backwards. It’s like mountaineering almost, It’s not what I paid for. I won’t lie, this would be any mother’s worst nightmare. I was scared. Often praying and moving slowly, crawling on the steep mountainside.

Beauty after the storm

I was glad when it’s over, pee stained my shorts. I was in a hurry, relieving myself in the middle of the climb. Snots in my face, I couldn’t care less.

We laughed it off, the rain stopped and we were greeted by amazing views. I gave my praises to Allah. The trek further down was easy, relatively, and sunny, compared to the one we had earlier in the morning, although much more longer.

People would not believe it when I say that this was the hardest trek of my life, today, military standard I reckon. A great story to remember, a legend to tell. I am a trooper. I was weak, but fear is a great source of strength. Luckily for everyone, there’s no technical trek now onwards. Two days of short treks left.

May 29th – Trek day 12

800m descent from Namche Bazaar to Phakding. 2 nights left in Everest area. Nothing interesting today aside from the view. Got our final glimpse of Everest today (not in photo).

May 30th – Trek day 13

Today is our last day of trekking. 14 Days, 2500m altitude difference, 130km distance walked total.

Favourite hangout place at Lukla[Our favourtie hangout place in Lukla, good times]

Here’s an interesting twist of events. Back in Tyangboche, I met a Californian woman, Sudha, we chatted over dinner. Sited next to us was a quiet Russian woman, Nadia. Nadia then became my pace buddy up to Gorekshep. Before we reached Gorekshep, at Labouche, I stayed in the same lodge as a bunch of Singaporeans. On our way to Gorekshep, we were tailing a Texan pair.

When I met Sudha again yesterday, she was sited next to the Singaporeans. She was telling me how the elder Texan had to be helicoptered back because of altitude sickness. The Singaporeans interjects. I then chatted with the Singaporeans. Laughing about how pissed I was at them back in Labouche. I then found out that one of them was studying in Melbourne. Further in the conversation, I figured that she was a friend of my ex-roomate’s girlfriend. Small world !

[Alas a familiar accent, it was the Singaporeans. I felt almost at home]

 

May 31st – Lukla to Kathmandu

Today is not a trekking day but I’ve been running up and down town looking for 5 people who would share a helicopter ride with me. Not usually an easy job for an introvert but I’ve found myself shouting around like it was my second nature. Unfortunately, all flights from Lukla were cancelled. Heavy heartedly spent USD$400 on a helicopter ride but glad I found 5 strangers to head to Kathmandu today (only to find out later I only needed 4 because there’s only the 5 seaters left, had to play hunger games to decide who stays, long story). There’s a marathon group of 150 people arriving at Lukla from Namche today so I wouldn’t want to wait for them to fly off before we do, the weather forecast doesn’t look too good too.

Nepali favourite pastime[Volleyball, the locals favourite pastime]

All those effort today. Even the helicopter flight is postponed. Will head out early tomorrow morning instead, InshaAllah. At least I’m famous now, the guy who ran around town. Kinda shattered. La Tahzan

Hey good news, I managed to fly on the helicopter today after all. Alhamdulillah. Was quite an experience. I also get to sit on the back of a truck, and on a full van with the staffs just to get a cash receipt. Oh man, Nepali cannot be rushed, they’re taking their sweet time writing my receipt, should’ve paid using credit card.

Farewell at Lukla[Bidding farewell to our porters]

June 1st

Bag still at Kathmandu. Woah, how many bumps could one go through a single trip. Hilarious. I’m just going to eat a lot now and see if I could get my bag tomorrow morning. I’m so skinny. chicken ! meat ! Ice creeeaaaaammmm !

June 2nd

Back in my hood and I retrieved my bag. Lose 8kg after the trip but gained a lot of knowledge and experience. Yay ?

Namche viewpoint

Final Words

I met a 70 something year old Japanese man who was trekking the mountains alone. I admit that it is not an easy trek but it does not mean that you have to be super fit and adventurous to do it. A lot of people are missing out over the fear of getting hurt or death. You could get hurt or die anywhere, and I do not believe that life is worth living without adventure. Regardless of how big or small the adventures are. If you have a destination that you always wanted to go to, Go! Acknowledge your fear but do not  let it stand in your way. Because if you do just one thing differently, your world will open up. And to me it did.

 

Everest Basecamp Trek – Part 2

May 21st – Trek day 4

“Jumjum”, the Sherpas would say, more often by Henry than them, prompting us to continue our trek. The terrains are ever changing. Less trees now, more shrubs and plains. Today’s trek consisted of walking a steep uphill, slightly short of one hour, followed by a couple hours walk along ridges and cliffs. Everest now slightly bigger than it was yesterday.

The rooms are getting smaller and smaller. Shower now a luxury, not a commodity. I wiped myself with my abundant wealth of Dettol wipes. But even that, is depleting. My shirts smells. Others smells too, but probably not as much as me. Even at this altitude, I sweat.

A mountain next to Khumjung [A mountain that can be seen from our communal balcony in Khumjung]

The lodges here, albeit not able to pass even as a one star hotel, are clean. Owners are usually friendly but they tired of meeting too many people, not bothering to remember one of the many faces, I presume. Foods are similar along the trek route. Been treating myself with Dhal Bhat, a Nepali vegetarian dish. Pizzas, local Momos, potatoes and sandwiches are also served.

We visited the school and hospital after lunch, in Khumjung and Khumde. “Chocolate”, the kids would say, asking for some, but they quickly pass. They must’ve seen thousands of foreign faces, ours, not special, buried forever, unretrievable from their memory. A couple of Nepali confused me as local when I strayed a bit from my group. “Always”, I thought. Loraine pointed out that I do not look Malay. “I get that a lot”, I said, no longer fascinated. I swear I could pass as local in most Asian countries.

Prayer Flags framing the mountains

Bikas exchanged Hindi with me, “pagel”, “chalo”, and “nahee”, were all I know. “Mero naam Angela ho”, Angela said in Nepali. “I’m a ho”, Loraine shouted. Conversation gotten weird with talks of Bollywood movie, Hayden reenacted some scene from bodyguard.

We get to see our porters more often now, probably because they have nowhere else to go. I didn’t catch their names. Dragon was all I remembered, conveniently the one with the Mohawky looking knit hat. They don’t speak English. I struggled even with Bikas and Himal, our Sherpa guide. Bikas recently admitted that he’s not of Sherpa descent, but takes the name Sherpa as his profession. They’re still great at their job though. The ethnic group, Sherpas, according to Tekei, are given their name after the surge of Everest summit attempts. They originally came from Tibet around 600 years ago. I have yet to check that fact.

DSC_1466[Our form of entertainment, Tekay torturing Bikas and Himal]

“Hello, dinner ready”, Himal called. Dhal Bhat and deep fried Snickers bar for dinner. Canned mango juice, Chabaa from Thailand, my new drink of choice, hot chocolate too. Yak dung kept us warm in the common room. We are sleeping at 3700m tonight.

“I’ve been passing wind”, said Henry. I knew the room smells odd. I thank god, my poops are still solid. Farts heard more often than my liking from the toilet through the thin walls, a type of diarrhea, Kathmanpoo, they suffered.

Khumjung valley in the evening[Breathtaking view of Khumjung Valley]

I brushed my teeth and prepared my wudhu outside. Dogs barked in the valley, their echoes carried by the mountains. I took a deep breath, in solemn, I watched from atop the hill. The sky, starless, covered by clouds. The valley, dimly lit by houses. Inside, in between two beds, my roommate snoring behind me, I prayed as a mussafir. I skipped my book tonight, Life of Pi, a story it contains, will make you believe in god, it claims. I forced myself to sleep at 8PM. I broke wind, my wudhu gone. Henry, oblivious in his sleep. The deed is done.

May 22nd – Trek day 5

We lose altitude this morning, 500m altogether. It was a steady downhill down the valley from Khumjung. The next part was tougher with steep uphill, we gained 700m. We’re stopping in Tyangboche today at 3900m above sea level. Our pace agonizingly slow, like three girls in middle school walking to the canteen. But it helps with acclimatization.

“Slowly slowly”, Tekei reminded. Back on our way to Namche on day 3, when I was having a hard time breathing. He asked, “Did you train?”. A slight worry on his face with a hint of annoyance. “I did”. Liar. I ran 12km once, at sea level, one month before the trek.

We’re going to visit the Monastery later. Here’s the view from my room. I never want to leave.

The view of Everest from our room in Thyangboche[The view from our room in Thyangboche, we can see Everest from here]

To clarify, Henry was actually an awesome room mate. He has a minor case of superhero syndrome. He’s always taking care of his fellow trekker but I guess everyone else kind of did. But at the same time, I’m now contemplating if he partially contributes to my altitude sickness. Both of us are light sleepers and if one of us woke up, the other will too. I feel like I didn’t get much sleep with him always awake. One time, I was awaken by my headache and as I opened my eyes, I saw the the most impressive night sky. Then, I saw Henry with his camera on the window pane saying “look at the stars mate”.

The stars above Everest[MashaAllah, Starlit sky above Everest]

May 23rd – May 25th – Trek day 6-8

Sun room closed during off season[This is the place where I started having symptoms of “mild” altitude sickness]

It started as a mild headache. What I thought would not affect me too badly, Altitude Sickness. Headache became more serious with nausea in the middle of the night. Acclimatization didn’t help and I resorted to the blood thinner, Diamox. I’m thankful that everyone in the group was concerned. I feel pathetic but I would really had given up if it was not for everyone’s encouragement. I am especially thankful to Nadia, Michael and Tekei who had been with me step by step on the ascent to Labouche, Lorainne for the medicines, Bikas for carrying my day pack when I can’t, Henry who came back and carried my bag after Bikas. On a lighter note, there was a couple of mice in our room at Dingboche, all I can say is that jumping between beds is my forte

Hut between Dingboche and Labouche[I wonder how it feels like to live here permanently]

I have been holding off against using Diamox but in the end, I give in. The pain was too unbearable. Unlike sea sickness, altitude sickness lingers until you get to a lower altitude. We have been doing the opposite. Non-stop peeing is a side effect of Diamox. I probably peed ten times on this hill alone. It only lasted for the day though and I’m back on my usual routine after that.

Look at how small the humans are[Spot the puny humans]

You often hear people say “I could not catch this on camera”. I don’t think it’s possible. You can try your best to take an awesome photo and it’ll turn out beautiful but you could never substitute that with what you saw with your own eyes. This is one of the reason I travel, to put things in perspective to how they actually are. And to put the mountains into perspective, count how many people you can see in the photo above.

Breaktime[Tekay preparing my hydration liquids]

May 26th – Trek day 9

Labouche[An overnight snowstorm covered the whole area with thick snow]

I’m 3 hours away from Everest Basecamp. But regrettably, I cannot conserve enough energy to go there. I’ve been suffering from altitude sickness and figure that my safety defeats the bragging right. Tonight we sleep at 5,164m above sea level, higher than any mountains in Borneo or even Europe. We begin our descent tomorrow.

The last days of ascent was very anti-climatic. We could not see anything past a few hundred meters. I ended up not reaching Basecamp and we can’t even climb Kalapathar because of the ongoing snowstorm. But I’m glad I forced myself to at least reach Gorekshep, the last village before Everest Basecamp. I would have not done it if it wasn’t for my fellow trekkers. At least I knew that I reached my limit. And as crushing as this limits were, I have learnt how to cope with it. Sometimes things are just beyond your control and it does not always ends the way you want it to.

DSC_1643[My group reached the Basecamp albeit the snowstorm, Everest and its sisters nowhere to be seen]

Continue reading Part 3

Disclaimer: Photos courtesy of Henry Wong

Everest Basecamp Trek – Part 1

In retrospect, It was easy for me to love Nepal. It’s different, it’s exciting, and in many ways, I was humbled by her and the events that had occurred to me there. Somewhere along the way I realised how I knew so little about the world outside my comfort bubble. I’ve learnt that sometimes you just have to experience things yourself in order to understand. Yes, simply to understand.

The idea of going to Everest basecamp is simple but learning about it makes you feel like you know so little about everything

May 18th – Trek day 1

The trek commenced on my 26th birthday, it was sort of a big deal.

The flight to Lukla from Kathmandu takes around half an hour. We landed on one of the world’s most dangerous… I mean, fun, airstrip, built by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit Everest along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The journey was beautiful. We had breakfast in Lukla before heading to Phakding. Food was surprisingly good.


[A documentary snippet about Lukla. I love the over dramatization]

You know you’re not prepared for the trek when you’re not even aware that you’re going to land on the world’s most dangerous landing strip. It really wasn’t that scary. It was probably scarier for a Muslim to face the fact that he will not be able to eat any meat from there on. I’m not a vegetarian but sometimes it is just easier to tell people you are, than to explain the concept of Halal food. But that’s just me being lazy.

[A plane landing on Lukla airstrip]

We’re trekking with our guide, Tekay, along with our Sherpas, Bikas and Himal. With me on this trek are Henry, Hayden and Angela from New Zealand, Rod and Chris from Australia, Luc from Switzerland, and Loraine from Ireland. I was delighted to know that electricity runs 24 hours around this region thanks to their many hydro powered generator. There’s not too many people doing the trek now as peak season is close to and end, well, more for us.

Well not really, they were hosting a marathon and the further up we went, the more crowded the lodges get.

[My group, without our porters]

[Our porters, the super humans]

May 19th – Trek day 2

We had to cross a lot of these type of bridge and, skydiving in Melbourne did not cure me from my fear of heights. The photo didn’t do justice on how high the bridge actually is. I am now in Namche Bazaar at 3450m. I stopped every 20-30m, was the last one to arrive. Luckily for me, tomorrow is acclimatization day. We landed in Lukla yesterday at an altitude of 2800m and slept in Phakding at 2600m.

[See if you can spot the other bridge]

I admit, I did not train enough for this trek. I was exhausted after the 2nd day. I’m always left behind and constantly missing in group photos. I’m surprised I managed to go all the way (well almost, at least).

May 20th – Trek day 3

Today is our acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar, which means that we get to stay at this altitude for another day. During acclimatization, your body adapts to the altitude, increasing the number and capacity of red blood cells so they can carry more oxygen. Then, my heart does not have to pump as hard. We did a short 20 minutes hike this morning at 5:30AM and had our first glimpse of Everest from one of Namche’s viewpoint. We should’ve been able to see it on the way to Namche yesterday but weather did not permit.

Later today, we’re going to hike slightly higher to get our body used to the altitude before heading back to Namche for lunch. We can rest the whole day afterwards. We watched several documentaries yesterday so we’ll probably do that again today. We slept early and woke up early. I get to sleep for 9 hours finally, I like it. Very therapeutic. I hope the office is doing well without me, my phone is useless. Anyway, these are photos taken around Namche. Everest is dwarfed behind its sister mountains but we’ll be able to face the ‘roof of the world’ closer once we reach Kalapathar somewhere between Day10-12, I’m not sure.

We never actually peaked Kalapathar because of the snowstorm. Almost no one did. It was a downer. Just recently I was talking with a Couchsurfer who went there just a week before us and everything was beautiful.

Our sleeping quarters is in this photo. I would also like to add that I aced the Nepali water and food, my poops are still solid at Day 4, some others are not as lucky. Weather wise, it’s not too cold yet, probably 3-10c, I still sweat under my thin layer of jacket and thermal undershirt.

Photo May 20, 10 54 20 AM[Our room at a lodge in Namche]

The lodges on this trek ranged from clean and comfortable, to concentration-camp like. I kid, you’ll get used to it after a few days but some amenities are just nasty (though I partake in making them worst). Almost always, you will have to share a room with another person especially during peak season but you will probably stick with the same roommate throughout. Thinking back now, I miss having that environment.

You’ll see this everywhere, it’s either a rock or a pole with prayer flags attached, you’ll be able to spot it for sure. Make sure to walk to the left, otherwise, otherwise … I’m not sure. Something bad will happen I guess.  Sometimes, you just have to respect their beliefs. Because people, respect makes the world a better place.

“Don’t worry, chicken curry.” Phrase taught to me by Himal along with “Why not, coconut”. I’m not sure if we could get wifi from here on but if we don’t, don’t worry. May Allah protect us all.

Although it seems like I’m always complaining about altitude sickness, the journey was much more than just that. I had a great time. The view was beyond what I had imagined and I do not, even for a bit, regret my decision to go for this trek.

Screenshot 2014-10-07 14.31.26Here’s some quick tips if you plan to hike in Nepal:

  • If you do not have any trekking gears, buy them in Nepal. They’re fake but they’re really cheap. I got my North Face fleece and rainproof jacket for USD$12. That’s a bargain ! regardless of the fact that it’ll be unusable after several treks.
  • But you should get your shoes before going there, you need to break into them.
  • Always walk on the safe side when walking pass yaks or mules. They might push you over the cliff if you don’t.
  • Buffs, sunglasses and hats. It protects you from extreme elements.
  • Wear your sunscreen. We heard a bunch of badly sunburnt trekkers whispering “good luck” (Girl~ um no you didn’t) to us because our skin was flawless at the end of the trek. Though we skipped them on our last day, bad move.
  • A comfortable backpack goes a long way.
  • Altitude sickness sucks, if you could, train by climbing mountains (above 3000m).
  • Most of all, keep an open mind and enjoy your view. You’ll miss it.

Continue reading part 2

[Part 2 preview]

Disclaimer: Some photos are courtesy of Henry Wong

3 days in Hongkong enough ?

If you ask anyone about visiting a place for a certain amount of days, they always come back to you and say that it is not enough. Truth is, it is never enough and never ever will be. But for a person with only 21 days of annual leave per year and have used most of it up earlier this year. It will have to make do. And without further ado.

Hongkong

I arrived on a gloomy evening in August. The air was stuffy that I thought I couldn’t breath. That was my first time being in a huge city, the air was very different. It was raining too, should have done my research before rushing in to buy the plane tickets, it was the rainy season.

A few weeks before, after several attempts looking for a host, I managed to get two host on Couchsurfing. One for Hongkong and another for Xi’an. Yes, I was suppose to go to Xi’an but because I didn’t get any respond earlier, I decided not to go there and go to Hongkong Instead. I’m a big fan of nature, and cities are always less appealing to me that I regretted choosing Hongkong even before I went there.

My Couchsurfing host was doing some volunteer work elsewhere but he managed to give me the key to his house via his friend. But I didn’t end up staying there for the whole duration because I didn’t feel comfortable at his place (Biarlah Rahsia). Couchsurfing isn’t about free accommodation anyway, it is about meeting the locals. I decided to stay with my colleague on the remaining days.

That being said, I would have felt more comfortable staying on this couch in the middle of the city.

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One thing I try to avoid when I travel is meeting other Bruneians. The only one place so far where I didn’t stumble upon any was in Nepal and it was the best thing ever. Speaking of Nepal, here’s a family of Nepali that I met in Lantau Island. Ah, it brought back memories.

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I went to Lantau Island on my first day. It is where the big Buddha statue is placed. I really liked it there and it was easily my favorite spot in Hongkong. The weather was cool but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my häagen-dazs.

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On my second day I met a another Hongkong couchsurfer and I shared with him my horror story. He pointed out some places of interest which I went to later that day. First was the temple, the most famous in Hongkong. It was cool and all but it really isn’t the most impressive thing I saw but better that than a culturally deprived city.

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Spent the rest of the day exploring what Hongkong has to offer. I’m never a big fan of the cities but I’m glad I found this hidden gem while looking for my apartment. Turned out this was right next to my apartment. I forgot the name of the place but it is near the outdoor escalator (I found that out the next day).

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On my third day I joined my colleagues. I enjoy being with them but heck I wasted a lot of hours with them. We went to a market which I’ve been to the day before and spent the rest of the day walking in the shopping areas. Well at least we ate at a Michelin star restaurant which was surprisingly not too expensive.

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So is 3 days really enough ? for me it was, I don’t really mind skipping some stuffs. Hongkong ended up being better than I thought it would be but the world has lots more to offer. So three days was good enough for me.