Archive for October, 2011

Everest “Expedition”

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by Yarn Over New York

I consider myself a “semi-active” person.  I don’t do a lot of exercise, but I do walk very fast.  I enjoy somewhat sporty activities when the opportunity presents itself (rock climbing, yoga, hiking), but I don’t really pursue them very often.  I’ve definitely never been involved in anything one might classify as “extreme.”  When  my co-worker Kevin, asked me if I wanted to join him and his boyfriend on a trip to Everest Base Camp last November, I asked, “How much climbing is involved?”  Luckily, no ice climbing is involved with visiting the Base Camp.  We only had to do a little “light” hiking (at 5200 meters above sea level).  I, of course, said yes and joined the “expedition” to the base of the Top of the World.  I was eager to visit such a historical, holy, extreme destination.

Thar She Blows- A view from the road to Everest

We got to Everest by way of China and a winding route through Tibet, which you can read about by visiting a few of my previous posts.  A link to all the places I visited during my Asian Winter Odyssey can be found here.

We set out from New Tingri early in the morning on 18 November 2010 and followed a Snake-n-Ladders like path higher and higher into the Himalayas.

A bird's eye view of our path

Side note: I’ve traveled to a lot of places and done my business in a lot of varied conditions.  Let me just say that nothing I’ve experience before or after this journey compares to using the public toilet on the road to Everest.  A small stone shelter with no door and a clear history of poor aiming techniques offered little comfort as I squatted in a chilly wind nearly 4 miles above sea level.

We arrived in the early evening at the guest house at Base Camp.  Sadly (or perhaps not so sadly) we arrived very very late in the Everest season and the outdoor camp ground was already closed, therefore we did not sleep in tents but rather stayed at the guest house.  (I still consider this “roughin’ it” as there was no plumbing, limited electricity and no heating except a small yak dung stove in the common room.)

A Nun and a Goat

Weather at the peak was pretty cloudy, but clear down below and we visited the world’s highest monastery, Rongbuk.  (Interestingly enough, it is also Tibet’s only co-ed monastery.)  Compared to the other monasteries we visited in Tibet, this one was so much smaller, so much poorer and so much simpler than any other.  We each bought a few blessed items for souvenirs and gifts from the Top  of the World.

The Rongbuk Monastery

I was very taken by the undefinable holy atmosphere in the shadow of Mt. Qomolangma (translation: Holy Mother) and I took a moment to hike up a small hill and say a few prayers.

I built stacks of stones for each prayer, just as I had seen countless times along the road

After visiting the monastery and saying my prayers, I spent the rest of the evening with the other visitors and the local Sherpas and Guest House keepers.  (Another side note: Though the local men work very hard as Sherpas for Everest Summitters, the women do ALL the rest of the work including cooking, cleaning and trekking miles to get fresh water.)

The Sherpas and the drivers show off some dancing skills for the ladies

The next morning, we awoke early in the morning to catch the stunning view of Everest at sunrise.  It was windy (!), it was cold (!!) and it was early (!!!).  We hiked up what most people on the planet would consider a VERY SMALL HILL to arrive at the clump of prayer flags that represents the closest point a person can get to the summit without legal permission from the Chinese government (and about 10 grand).  At sea level, this may have been an easy uphill jog, but at 5200 meters, this left us winded, coughing and panting.  It was totally worth it.  Seeing the peak of Everest turn pink with the rising sun is the closest that a “normal person” can come to the glory of actually standing at the Top of the World.

Worth it

After viewing the peak at dawn, we went back to camp, ate a meager breakfast and packed up for our lengthy trek back down the mountain and our last stop in Tibet before crossing the Friendship Bridge into Nepal.

I'm at the Top of the World

See more pictures of my trip to Everest here.

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My Face is Frozen- My Tibetan Trek

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by Yarn Over New York

My Face is Frozen!!

At the beginning of my Asian Winter Odyssey, I spent a few days in Lhasa, Tibet.  After a few days of sightseeing there, we began our journey through Tibet on our way to Mt. Everest.  We visited several amazing sights along the way.

13 November- Nam Tso Lake

Our first stop outside of Lhasa was Tibet’s Nam Tso Lake. It is the largest lake in Tibet.  We were among the last few visitors to this turquoise lake in the clouds.  I would love to visit Nam Tso in the summer.  I imagine it is even more gorgeous.  There are some rocks that look like they would be amazing to climb.  (I don’t think you’re allowed to climb them , though.  😦  )

The Couple Stone

Peace Monument (just outside Nam Tso area)

14 November- Tombs of the Kings and 

We went to Shannan to visit the Tombs of the Tibetan Kings.  The monastery is really small and on top of a hill overlooking the valley of tombs.

The giant mounds are the burial sites

That day we also visited the teeny tiny Changdrok Temple.  It is the oldest temple in Tibet.

As the monastery is situated atop a very steep hill, we rode horses to the top

My friend the camel.

15 November- A Long Day in a Car to Gyantse

We set out in the morning on our way to the town of Gyantse.  We made several stops along to way to see the sights.

Reminds me of Jacob's Ladder- Tibetan prayer drawings

Yamdrok Lake

Kharola Glacier- 5560 meters above sea level!

We arrived in Gyantse in the later afternoon.  We set out to explore town before the sun went down.

Many doors have these swastikas. The Buddhist symbol of good luck

16 November- Gyantse Fort and Palcho Monastery

Don't fall off the fort!

We visited the ruins of the Gyantse Fortress.  It involved hiking up a lot of stairs and climbing over a lot of rubble, but gave us a great view of the town.

A view of the Palcho Monastery from Gyantse Fort

DANGER

Our next stop was the Palcho Monastery.

The monastery is most notable for its Kumbum, which looks like a giant stupa with a golden dome on its top.  It has nine levels and you can walk inside and see countless holy images of buddha and other holy icons.

The Kumbum

Buddha

Offerings at Buddha's feet

Green Tara

Tibetans carry melted yak butter in these thermos to pour into the butter lamps that burn as offerings in the temples

One last view of the Kumbum

17 November- Shigatse, Tingri, Tashilhunpo and Sakya Monasteries

At the Tashilhunpo Monastery

Our last day before Everest, we headed to Shigatse, stopping at the Tashilhunpo and Sakya Monsteries along the way.

A monk sorting prayer scarves at Tashilhunpo

Prayer Wheels at Sakya Monastery

A guardian at Sakya

That evening we arrived in New Tingri for our last night before Everest!

A yak along the road to New Tingri

 

By the end of our Tibetan Trek, our clothes smelled like incense and our cameras were filled with lots of amazing photos of many inspirational people and sights.  We were ready to head up, up, up to the Top of the World!

See more photos of Tibet here.

Singapore Begs to Differ

Posted in Life in Singapore with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by Yarn Over New York

As a former New Yorker and experienced traveler, I have seen my fair share of beggars.

In NYC, beggars will sing, dance, pay drums to get your money.

In Europe, they will chase you with their sad big-eyed children.

In many parts of Asia, children sell books and cigarettes and are trained to hassle tourists endlessly.

However, in Singapore, beggars are few and far between. Most are elderly “aunties” and “uncles” with disabilities that sell small packets of tissues.

At my local MRT (subway) station, there is an old man (amputee) in an electric wheelchair who wears a Santa hat and has a horn to get your attention. He doesn’t so much as beg, rather he honks at you and then thrusts tissue packets in your general direction.

The other night, I saw something I had never seen before.

This particular man, had set up his “wares” on display at a busy intersection. In his prosthetic legs…

Not really tempted to buy his tissues…even though I do feel sorry for him.