Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lamayuru to Chilling Trek, Ladakh 7 - 11 Aug 2013

7th Aug 2013
Trek start : Lamayuru (3500m)
Trek end : Wanla (3160m)
High passes : Prinkiti La Pass (3730m)
Duration : 3.5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

We think we are ready for a higher trek now after the 3 days Sham Trek. Plus this trek we have a porter so our backpack will be lighter and we are over with our headache. So we met our guide Diskir, she is a trainee guide but only because her English is not good. She has been working as a porter for a year now, she know the trek and everything around. Our porter Dolkar will carry our 10kg backpack. We were doubtful because she weight not more than 45kg :-) Both of them were young only 21 years old so they should be ok.

From Prinkiti La Pass
After a good breakfast, we left our guesthouse. We descent along the main road and then cut into a narrow valley, the valley was actually a dried river bed, occasionally some fresh water surfaced from the ground. Shortly after we arrived at the base of Prinkiti La Pass. We saw the French group again ahead of us. The ascent to Prinkiti La Pass was not tough as we took it slowly. The view behind us was breathtaking. As we approach the pass there were big group of trekkers already there just resting and enjoying the view. From the pass we could view the Zanskar range at far. The feeling was so out of the world.

The descent to Wanla took us 2 hours, first 1 hour was a nice walk in the canyon. The formation of rocks and stones are in all sizes, shapes and colors. The final hour was spent walking on the road to Wanla. It was hot and boring, we prefered the path. We arrived at our homestay at noon when rain started. We could feel the sudden drop of temperature outside. Lucky us to get there on time to take shelter in the house.

Wanla is located at the juncture of 2 river, the Shilakong Tokpo flows into Yapola river. The lower altitude result to more warm in the climate which then brought forward the harvesting of barley and apricots. Every single apricot trees were fully bloomed and barley has been harvested and line up on the ground.  It has a monastery that is dated back to 14th century. Small but pretty. It is a sub-monastery of Lamayuru which provides a caretaker monk responsible for daily rituals and for granting access to the temple. The monastery sits at the edge of the hill overseeing the village, the rivers and barley fields.

We were made special dinner this night, it was Ladakhi pasta or they called it Donkeys ear or Timok, top with curry source. It was delicious! I had 2 serving for the first time since I arrived in India. We also tried the local Chang beer made by barley, tasted good not as strong as rice wine. We slept early as we plan to leave very early the next day.

Colorful mountain

8th Aug 2013
Trek start : Wanla (3160m)
Trek end : Urtsi (3500m)
High passes : NA
Duration : 6 hrs
Difficulties : Moderate

Woke up at 5am to have breakfast and ready to leave at 6am. We were told that we are going to take the goat path to Urtsi. We were not aware until we got on the path off the beaten trek. The goat path is actually an old path used by the locals long before the road to Urtsi was constructed. No one is using the path now, the other trekkers used the road to get to Urtsi.

Goat path
The path is not even a path, sometimes we were just following some goat shits on the ground, who knows where the goat were heading. But of course we have a guide who can navigate with their eyes close. :-) It was kind of exciting yet scary coz some path was treacherous as it hangs by the cliff, one wrong step could be disastrous. I was not sure myself a couple of times if I could make it :-( my walking stick helps a lot to support and Kareen taught me to make sure I set my foot into the ground to stabilize before I take the next step and don't look down beyond my foot....well lucky me I live to tell the story :-) The good thing is we have the mountain all by ourselves and the scenery is so surreal, it just blown me away. The mountain range stood silently, bare and strong, the cloud movement made the mountain dance in front of us, constantly changing color. Every corner we turn, we see another perspective of the mountain. Mind blowing!

We finally arrived in Urtsi at noon,  our homestay family is a couple in their 40ies. Their house is in progress of upgrading. They build one room a year if possible more. We were surprise to find a shower with hot water. Yeah! So happy to get a nice shower and wash up my only trek pants and shirt and we have a bed to sleep on.

At around 6pm, there was a big commotion outside, we hear locals shouting from roof to roof, sheep bleating, cow mooing, donkey braying, so we went to check it out.  Apparently this happen every evening when the animals return from the mountain, those animals were calling for their babies or parents, those owners calling for their animals, very funny encounter. 

9th Aug 2013
Trek start : Urtsi (3500m)
Trek end : Hinju (3740m)
High passes : NA
Duration : 3 hrs

Difficulties : Easy

5th day in the trek, we started to get tired with the chapati bread, breakfast was always chapati bread with fried egg or with butter and jam. Our packed lunch was none other than chapati bread with boiled egg and boiled potato. It was too dry, I couldn't swallow them anymore. The best I could do was to eat 2 pieces during breakfast. :-(

The goat path was pretty easy today, after 2 hours we arrived at a one family house by itself in a valley. They have an animal farm, fields of barley, garden of vegetables and a stream not far. That's how simple they live. It makes me ponder how we are always unsatisfied and demanding in live. This sets as a reminder to me everytime I hear myself complaining or dissatisfied. 

We finished the last hour of our trek on the road to Hinju. The vehicle road ends at Hinju. We were disappointed that it's the end of the goat path for this trek. We really enjoy the goat path experience and those who has done the normal trekker's path via the road will not have a chance to see the spectacular view above the mountain.

At Hinju, as most of the houses has transformed into homestay, they actually came out with a rotation system. Each family will have to take turn to host. We got a small family with 3 rooms (2 bedroom and a dining/kitchen) a family of 7. The village has a small monastery, Diskir and Dolkar light up a oil candle for prayer. On the way down from the monastery, a local invited us for tea in her house. Diskir knew her from her last trek. We tried the salted milk tea. It wasn't bad at all. :-)

After we finished, it was time of the day where the animals return from the mountain. We sat with the locals to watch the shepherds herd back about 20 ponies and 50 sheep. I was just wondering how they could recognised who sheep is whose? At this time of the year, there were many new born, the baby sheep and ponies were so cute!

We planned to sleep early for the big day tomorrow. Unfortunately it was the night of spiders! Kareen discovered a spider near her bed and another and another, the owner's son tried to get rid of all of them but they kept appearing. It went on and on till late night. At last I switch my bed with her, to make her feel better. At last we fall asleep for couple of hours.

10th Aug 2013
Trek start : Hinju (3740m)
Trek end : Sumda-Chenmo (3810m)
High passes : Konze La Pass (4950m)
Duration : 9 hrs

Difficulties : Difficult

4:30am we had to wake up. At 5:30am just as the morning light break we took off. I was excited to cross the Konze La Pass today as it will be my record hike thus far but I wasn't looking forward for the 9 hours trek. The initial 3 hours was a nice walk in the valley without the sun. We pass several camp sites along the way. They were just waking up.

The way up to Konze La Pass was steep, we took our time. At this altitude, oxygen is thin. We can't rush it. There were beautiful flowers growing at this altitude. We reached after 3 hours. I wouldn't say it was easy but it wasn't as tough as I was expected. Even though the overcast sky spoilt the scenery, we still enjoy it. At the pass, we had a view of the valley and the range of mountains around it. 

Konze La Pass
I started to have headache due to the altitude. We continue down to Sumda-Chenmo. It was getting hot at noon. The way to Sumda-Chenmo was long, it took us 3 hours. By the time we got to the village, my headache was pounding hard, felt like it's going to explode. I took the last aspirin that Kareen has and crash. It was after 2 hours sleep that I recovered to normal.  It was an exhausting day.

Sumda-Chenmo is a very small village with only 7  families. There is no road access and electricity here, they depend on solar power. The house we were in is also very old, simple but warm. This is our last homestay, it has been a great experience. Every family has given us something to take away, something from their heart and their sincerity.

11th Aug 2013
Trek start : Sumda-Chenmo (3810m)
Trek end : Chilling (3200m)
High passes : Pagal La Pass (4270m) and Dungdunchen La Pass (4710m)
Duration : 8 hrs
Difficulties : Difficult

Last day and long day with 2 high passes. We left the same time as yesterday. We first descent to the river where we started zig zagging for 1 hour up to Pagal La Pass. Weather was on the cloudy side today, good as it won't be too hot, bad as it will spoil the view. From the 1st pass, we walk along the shoulder of the mountain to arrive at Lanak camp site. A few group of campers have already packed up and left.

After the camp is the steep ascent to Dungdunchen La Pass. It was much harder, I told myself repeatedly "Every step I take I am one step closer to the pass" to kept myself going. We got to the pass finally at 10am. Prayer flags flapping welcoming us! :-) We took a long rest to enjoy our last moment above 4000m. Several ponies carrying camping equipment went pass us. We could see the Markha range and the Zanskar range from here.

The way down was long, we walk for 3 hours with gradual slope down to Chilling. Just after our lunch break, another guide spotted Blue Sheep at the top of the cliff, we were so happy that we finally saw it. It was our gift to end this trek. :-)

Overall it has been a tough trek due to the harsh and hot environment and altitude even though we didn't get any muscle ache from the entire 8 days trek. I enjoyed most the goat path with the surreal mountain view. The homestay experience is priceless. The worst was the headache and the bed bugs bites. The best was the company of Kareen, Diskir and Dolkar. The only regret I had was not bring enough food (energy bar or cereal) to make up for the chapati. :-)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sham Trek - Likir Monastery to Temisgang, Ladakh 4 - 6 Aug 2013

Nubra and Zanskar River
We left at 7:30am with Stanzin our guide on a mini van to Likir Monastery. It was a 2 hours ride with amazing scenery. We pass many army camps, desert land, rocky mountain, villages and the Nubra and Zanskar river. Along the way, we noticed all their road signs are written in English. There were some specific one that spell like this, "Life is short don't make it shorter", "Better late than never", "Drive slowly, Reach safely", " Always Alert Accident Avert", "Drink Whisky Drive Risky"  :-) That was quite an educational read.

Likir Monastery
4th Aug 2013
Trek start : Likir Monastery (3530m)
Trek end : Yangtang (3590m)
High passes : Charatse La Pass (3580m) and Pobe La Pass (3730m)
Duration : 4 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

Gold statue of Maitreya
Likir Monastery
After 2 hours, we got to this huge monastery with a huge golden buddha statue. From here on we will be on our foot for 8 days. Pray hard not to get any blisters on the feet! Before we start our trek, we pay a visit to the 11th century monastery. Prayers was going on, we visited the museum that kept hundred years old coins, costume, weapons, art effects, pots, cooking utensils, etc. The were old prayer books stack up in the cabinet and some statues cover up with cloths. According to Stanzin, these statues are very powerful, they are only expose once a year during the September festival. After we visited the 25m tall golden buddha statue, we are all set to start our trek.

The trek started along the hillside towards our first pass of the day - Charatse La Pass (3580m) it was generally flat on a rocky path. Barley fields are the only green area that stands out from the brown rocky mountain and terrain. We reached our first pass in no time. It was just a warm up! After the pass we descend to the tar road and crossed path with a group of horses and ponies on the way to a camping trip with a few shepherds. Not far after, we left the tar road to descent to a valley. The group of horses and ponies were long gone. We couldn't keep up.

It was almost noon, the scorching sun was killing us, not a single tree in the vicinity  Lucky we were wearing long sleeve and big hat, we reach our lunch spot at Sumdo, a little tent in the middle of nowhere but it helps to gives us shade. Lunch was pre-packed today, we have 2 chapati wrapped with vegetables, 1 egg and 1 expired banana. We have to eat to regain some energy. We carried along 2 litre of purified water each but Stanzin just drink from the river. We knew our stomach is not as strong as the local.

From Sumdo (3470m) we had our first uphill challenge to the 2nd pass of the day - Pobe La Pass (3730m). Even tho it's only 260m but with the altitude and scorching hot sun, it was exhausting. We took small steps and many stops to catch our breath and enjoy the view. We finally scrambled up the pass marked with prayer flags and a stupa. From the pass we could see Yangtang village, our destination of the day. The small village has only about 15 families. Green barley fields surround the village. Another 30 minutes later we arrived at the village but our homestay is located deep down in the valley by the river. We went down the steep slope to a hidden paradise. A beautiful house surrounded by trees and barley fields. They invited us in with a big smile. Jullay! this word is magic, anyone that comes to Ladakh must learn it, it means Hello, thank you and good bye. Magic word isn't it?

Our host family has 5 children, 4 are away in the city and only one daughter live with them. The couple are about 70 years old from my guess. They have winkles like lines on the mountain but they are strong and tough. They work in their field every day wherelse their daughter manage the house and cook.

Here is our first homestay experience, we have to enter the house with our shoes off. In Singapore we have warm floor but here it's cold! We were welcomed with tea and cookies, they have a dining room decorated with small tables and shelf of golden and silver pots. We sleep in a room with 4 mattress on the floor and a table each. They provide us blanket for the night. There is no heater in the house but we don't need it at this time of the year. The toilet is outdoor, it is a hole on the ground where everything drops about 2m down. Some sands and a shovel inside the toilet for us to throw sand in the hole to cover up after our business. Very organic! There is no running water for shower. You will be given bucket of water if you want to clean yourself. We try to avoid this. The kitchen is the warmest place in the house as they cook with wood fire and dried cow dung. The field is planted with barley once a year. A small garden planted with spinach, spring onion, potato, beans, cabbage, etc.

That night, Stanzin and the family cook us momo. We had dinner together with the family in the warm kitchen. The 2 old couples were chatting away in local languages. The momo was delicious but I lost my appetite coping with the headache, stomach indigestion and insufficient sleep. I wish so hard for the headache to go away! Since there is not much entertainment besides star watching, we slept early to try to recover. 
Samanchan La Pass

5th Aug 2013
Trek start : Yangtang (3590m)
Trek end : Hemis Shukpachu (3690m)
High passes : Sarmanchan La Pass (3750m)
Duration : 3 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

Woke up at 7:30am, I was glad that they made me porridge for breakfast instead of chapati bread. It was much better for my stomach. No the headache has not gone away. :-( We said our goodbye after breakfast. Today is suppose to be an easy day, we just need to get over one pass to arrive at our next destination. The path started along the river, due to the dry season the river has turn into stream. Greens only stays where the water is, that made it looks like a oasis in the desert. We took our time heading up to the pass as we were still adjusting to the altitude. We got to Hemis Shukpachu in 3 hours, a bigger village with around 30 families.

I was exhausted and weak, I crash out for half an hour after we check in to our home stay  When I woke up I was feeling all light and shine with the headache gone. I felt more alive! We rest the whole afternoon, this family is younger and more modern. The kids are back from school holiday, they all speak English  just a little timid. We went to the field to pick green beans and potato for dinner. That's the fun part about home stay, you get to connect with the local and participate in their daily activities, learn more about their culture and life. Most of them keep a farm house with cows, goats, sheep and chickens. In the morning they will let the cow out to roam around in the field. The goat, sheep and chickens stay in the farm as there might be predator out in the wild. It was nice to be in such peaceful environment with only the noise of farm animals.
Lago La Pass on top

6th Aug 2013
Trek start : Hemis Shukpachu (3690m)
Trek end : Temisgang (3200m)
High passes : Mebtak La Pass (3820m) and Lago La Pass (3820m)
Duration : 4.5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

From Hemis Shukpachu to Mebtak La Pass was easy. we met a group of french at the pass. After the pass it was a steep descent down to the valley. A group of ponies race us down the hill. We then follow the bank of the mountain till we reach the bottom of the 2nd pass. It was a steep 90 degree uphill on a zig zag path. The ponies climb up with full loads with no effort. :-( We took a pit stop to recharge before we head up. Stanzin told us we can make it up 20 minutes but we took extra 5 minutes to reach the top. The reward was a breathtaking view.

After the 2nd pass, it was all the way down hill. We had our lunch break in Ang, another small village. One more hour descent via the road, passing line of apricots trees with orange and yellow apricots fully bloomed. We can't stop eating :-p  finally we arrived at Temisgang, the end of our Sham trek. Here we catch our transport together with our new guide and porter to the next starting point of our 5 days trek. This trek was a good way to help us acclimatize and get use to the environment. We think we are ready for the big haul now. 

Sham Trek Profile
From here we drove to Lamayuru, we drove along the Indus river and gorges between the rocky mountain. The road is constantly being repair due to the fallen rocks and land slide. We arrived Lamayuru at 2pm. We thank Stanzin for the great time and for sharing her knowledge about the culture of Ladakhi with us. She left us with our new guide - Dolkar and porter - Diskir. We checked in to a guesthouse, opposite the stunning mountain view, we were too happy to find a modern toilet with hot shower and sitting toilet. Wee! First shower after 3 days.

Lamayuru is famous for it's monastery. The monastery was built in the 11th century, with a population of around 150 resident monks now. Lamayuru is host to two annual masked dance festivals, in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar, when all the monks from these surrounding gompas gather together to pray. People from all over the world came to visit. I was surprised to find a group of Malaysian snapping away photos in the prayers room when it is clearly written NO PHOTOS ALLOW. I felt angry when people doesn't respect others and more ashamed of these people from my home country. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Leh, Ladakh, India 1 -13 Aug 2013

Leh is located in the northern part of India, in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, border to China on the east, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the west. Not many people know about this place, people asked me how did I find out about this place. I think I saw a friend's photos online some time ago and it was stunning, ever since North Indian has been in my list of to go places. August to October is the best time to trek in this region. So there I was...

Leh town
This place is nothing I have ever seen or imagine, bare rocky mountains, bare sandy plains, sharp peaks, monasteries after monasteries unique by itself, prayer flags flapping, stupas guarding the mountains, green valley emerge from nowhere and friendly and warm tibetan people. It's India but not India at all!

We planned our trip way back in April, I will be able to take leaves by August and to take advantages of the long weekend in Singapore. 5 days of leaves, 2 weekends and 2 public holiday gave us total of 11 days holiday. We booked our tickets with Jet Airways, Singapore - Delhi - Leh. The fastest way to get there and a direct ascent to 3500m. We were advised to stay in Leh to acclimatise for 2-3 days, which leaves us 8-9 days for hiking.

One month before the trip, we train ourselves once a week at Bukit Timah and I was alternating between salsa and jogging. It was the best we could do. We did some research and found some information online about the weather, hiking path and places to stay. We were all set!

Himalaya range

1 Aug 2013
We spent one short night in Delhi airport, modern, big and clean which was a big surprise for me because when I was there in 2008, it was a crappy old airport. We catch the early morning flight to Leh, flew over the Himalayas range. It was stunning with endless snow capped mountain peaks!

Sia-La Guesthouse
2 Aug 2013
A short flight later we landed at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport, one of the world highest airport at the altitude of 3,256 m (10,682 ft). We were surrounded by bare rocky mountain and flat sandy plains, looks a lot like the desert. The air was fresh early in the morning, we took a taxi to our pre-booked guesthouse - Sia La Guesthouse. There were probably more than 50 guesthouses in Leh, this one was our choice, located just 5 minutes walk to the center and they responded to my email efficiently. We arrived at a beautiful vegetables and flower garden and welcomed by the owner, she served us tea and told us to relax and don't do much today. :-) We got a huge room on the 2nd floor with the view of garden and mountain peaks afar.

After a short nap, we were ready to explore the town. Just a short walk to town and we already spotted several stray dogs. There were travel agents and souvenir shops lining the street. We chose one of the many German bakery to have our brunch not that we want to eat the German bread. We ordered 2 local famous dishes momo and tukpa, momo is like chinese dumpling and tukpa is basically noodle soup. We felt energized after the meal. 2 french ladies join us, they couldn't bother to speak english, chatting away in french with Kareen. I understood that they were here to do some charity work.

We have to get going to search for a travel agent for our trek. We first drop by the DreamLadakh Agency, asked for several options of trek and prices. There were several options of trek we can do in 8-9 days. 
1. Markha Valley Trek 
2. Lamayuru - Chilling 
3. Rumste to Tsomoriri 
4. Phyang to Hunder

There were all camping trek, which means there will be guide and horseman and ponies carrying camping equipment and food. We will need good sleeping bag and camp along the way. We got a shock when we were given the price. It was extremely expensive. We opt out option 1 as this trek is pretty busy and crowded, option 3 is out of our budget, option 4 is out as it is difficult to get horseman and ponies in short notice. We are left with option 2 but this trek only need 5-6 days. We pop into another travel agency, this one doesn't even convince me, I was doubtful, even though the price is cheaper. 

Mosque in Leh
Finally we went to the Ladakhi Women's Travel Company ( I contacted before the trip. This company is run by Ladakh most experienced female guide, they employed only female guides and porters to encourage the women of Ladakh to show their abilities and skills. Their treks are homestay base, which means we stay in the Ladakhi home in the village, their homes are always run by the women, while the men are out earning the family’s income. By using the homestay system, we help the women to achieve the same status as the men. It also provide extra income to the locals and encourages people to remain in their villages instead of seeking employment in the cities. When using the homestay system we will get a closer look at the traditional Ladakhi way of life in a way we could never experience in a guesthouse or camp. We like the idea and we were sold! The ladies were very helpful in planning our trip, we finally put together 2 treks, a 3D2N Sham trek from Likir Monastery to Temisgam and continue to a 5D4N from Lamayuru to Chilling. We leave the day after. Another day to acclimatise in Leh.

We were feeling light headache the whole day from the high altitude. My eyes were itchy from the dusty surrounding. At night, I was feeling horrible with the headache getting worst and the rejection of the day brunch. We didn't get our dinner, instead we drank loads of water and sleep. The first night was terrible with the stray dogs fighting and barking at the neighborhood. We didn't sleep well.

3 Aug 2013
On the 2nd day, we struggle awake with the headache still lingering around. Ahhhh! I took 2 panadols to calm it. Today we plan to go easy as well, we will visit the famous Leh Palace and the stupa at the top of the mountain. Buy some supply that we need and pack for our trek. We decided to get a porter for our 2nd trek as we will be crossing 3 high passes above 4000m and we will pack more cloths for the coldness at night. For the 1st trek, as it is an easy trek, we will carry our own backpack.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
The Leh Palace stood atop the Tsemo Hill, overlooking the town and the mountain of Stok Kangri in the Zangskar mountain range. The palace was built in the 17th century, a ruin, is currently being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. We took a slow walk thru the mud brick houses and narrow lanes of the old town up to the palace, stray dogs are everywhere and rubbish as well. The view on the way up was spectacular. We paid 100rps to enter the palace, the restoration work was almost finish. There were rooms after rooms and a museum inside with old chinese painting which are more than 450 years old.

Maitreya Buddha
We proceed to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa above the Palace, it has a three-story high gold idol of Maitreya Buddha. It is still visited by monks everyday to light the butter-filled lamps in the morning and evening. The last structure at the top is the old fort that is almost a ruins now. 

Leh town is small, easy access by foot. We found a restaurant and had a delicious Indian vegetarian dinner. I have decided to be vegetarian the whole trip. Let see how it goes... This night I put on my ear plug with hope to get a good night sleep.

4 Aug 2013
On the 3rd day, we were all set to be pick up at 7:30am to start our 8 days trek. Stanzin our guide was there on time. The adventure be continue....

Sia-La Guesthouse – ( 1200rps per room/night with attached toilet, hot shower, TV. Breakfast - 100rps pp

Jet Airways - SG-DELHI-LEH return S$846 pp
Taxi to guesthouse - 200rps per taxi

Entrance to Leh Palace – 100rps pp
Entrance to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa - 20rps pp
Entrance to The Fort - 20rps pp
3D2N Sham trek - 7800rps pp (
5D4N Hemis NP trek - 11160rps pp
1 Porter for Hemis NP trek - 3500rps

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Settling Back In

After Chinese New Year, I finally have a changed of luck. According to some Chinese horoscope and fung sui, I should be lucky in the Snake year. "Rats that are looking for employment in 2013 may find that their luck is taking a turn for the better as long as they are determined and are happy to approach their future employers. Although Rats are quite active people, you should try to stay as healthy and fit as possible throughout 2013." So, I got a job! Not just a job but a job that I like. :-)

I return to Singapore for 2 more interviews, as soon as I got my letter offer signed. I started looking for a room to rent. I still love the East Coast, and fortunately I found a room exactly at the place I wanted to stay. It was the first room I view and I took it. The rent has increased over the past 2 years, right now I am paying S$700 monthly for a common room that include utilities. Only light cooking is allowed. The house is very clean and quiet, it is very convenient too, only 5 mins walk to the East Coast Park and 5 mins walk to nearby market and amenities. To get to work, there is a direct bus that usually take me 45 mins during peak hours to arrive to the office. So job and accommodation checked! Everything else will just fall into places.

Why I like this job so much? I've asked for a job in town, this job puts me right in Raffles Place. I was looking for something less stressful and easy to start with. This job starts from 9am and finish at 6pm, no calls or work after 6pm or weekend. A big changed from my previous job. Workload is just nice, timeline are sufficient and not overkill. Colleague are mostly foreigner, Japanese as the majority, Indian comes second and Filipino/Malaysian/Singaporean comes as minority. The Japanese are extremely friendly, hardworking and respectful as you can imaging the entire Japan culture in one building. They come to work at 8am even tho the official working hour is 9am and they never leave before the bosses leave. :-( For me of course I stick to the working hours unless there is something urgent to finish up. There is also cloths hanger at every offices, most of the Japanese wear suit, it is their culture but they slowly learn that suit is not practical in this hot weather.

Getting back to work life means getting back into routine life, basically wakes up everyday at the same time, beat the crowd to get into the bus first to find a seat, putting on dresses instead of shorts and t-shirt, heels instead of sandals and shoes, handbag instead of backpack, makeup instead of sunblock and perfume instead of body odor. :-p Actually it wasn't hard for me to get back into the old routines, it seems like just yesterday. Old habits never die, once settled down in the job, I open up the 2013 Public Holiday of Singapore calendar, with only 14 days leaves a year, I have to use them wisely. Planning the next holiday! Looking for long weekend! Deciding where to go....checking for here we go more long holiday but short and plan ones.

For the first few weeks, I got home by 7pm. I have lots of free time which I didn't know what to do with it. I started running, I pick up reading, still have plenty of time to spare, I went back to salsa and determined to be a better dancer by year end. Weekends even became a problem, I didn't know what to do. Cycling, running, reading, shopping has now been my weekend activities. Life is too good! :-D What am I complaining about?

What did I miss? Time with my family is the most I miss. I also miss the things I had in Singapore before I left for the RTW trip. Like having my own place and having Ginger with me, having an aquarium, having a bicycle, having a kitchen that I can cook, having extra $$ to do more stuff. Well! I guess that is what I have to put up with in exchange of a 2 good year! Good thing is, Ginger is happy living in his luxury retirement home in Journey East, well taken care of by Anita and all the employees. I will never be able to provide anything better for him. I am thankful.

What's coming? It is starting slowly but surely, with my job settled down and with my confirmation coming, I will be able to take leaves. A short diving trip to Perhentian at the end of May for a start, my paradise island off East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Gosh! I can't imagine I have been out of water for a LONG 9 months! Then, coming August, it will be a hiking trip to Leh, north of India. That will be some awesome place to look forward to. After that a dive trip to Brunei to dive The Cement Wreck, The Blue Water Wreck, The Australian Wreck and The American Wreck. I heard it can be challenging with the weather in Brunei. If anyone of you wants to join me, let me know. :-)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Back to Reality

What happens after the RTW trip?

After 1 and a half year on the road, it's finally time to come back and face the real world. I returned to Singapore where I have lived for 11 years with hope to find a job as soon as possible because living in Singapore without a job will dry my saving in short 3 months.

I was lucky that Winnie and Amy offered me a place to stay. If you know Singapore well enough, the cost of living here is high, the most expensive is property. Renting a room cost minimum S$550/month, renting a flat cost minimum S$1800/month. Basic transport and food cost S$600/month. So do your maths and you will know how much you need to live in Singapore.

While I started browsing jobs online and sending out my resume, I started to think of what else can I do other than going back to IT? I like creative work, I like flower arrangement, I like photography, I love diving and travelling but will any of these jobs pay me enough to live in Singapore? Well, no!

After 2 weeks of searching and sitting at home. My friend Amy told me they need someone to work part time in her co-owned Italian Restaurant urgently. I can choose from being a waitress or dish washer. Both are paid in hourly rate. I chose to be a dish washer so I don’t have to face the customer. :-) I only worked one shift a day, normally there are 2 shift, lunch from 10am to 4pm and dinner from 5pm to 11pm. I started with the lunch shift to stand in for the auntie who went on holiday. When she return I went to the night shift. The job responsibility is simple, to keep the kitchen and toilet clean. It sounded so easy. First few days at work, I had back ache from standing long hours and pain in my palms for washing all the heavy plates. The back ache went away after I got used to the hours but the pain in my palms became worst.

In the beginning it was fun to learn new things but after a while it gets to be routine. As the restaurant serve fresh seafood, I also help to clean them as well. Every week there are 2 to 3 orders of squids, crayfish and prawns. Yaiks! If you are not careful, you get cuts in the fingers and as your hands are constantly wet, recovery is long. Luckily when I got to night shift there was no seafood delivery at night. I worked 6 days a week and 6-7 hours a day. It is not too long but it was physically hard. My salary was enough for me to survive (free accommodation at friend’s house) and pay for my monthly commitment in Malaysia. Everyday is just going to work and home. I got to learn how life is in the kitchen and how Italian cooking is. I got to try all the good food and learn some of the recipe. :-)

During these time, I went for 3 interviews but none was successful. I wrote to many job offers but mostly with no response. Depression kicks in, plus problem with a long distance relationship made it worst. I really feel like giving up. Every day was just a fight, emotionally and mentally! I kept telling myself not to give up! Be patient! There are still people out there who are worse than me! Try to look at the bright side…. I continued to work in the restaurant for another month until the end of January. As Chinese New Year was around the corner, I went back to Kuantan for a break, and to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family. With hope that in the coming Snake Year, there will be better luck for me.

Chinese New Year this year was with a special guest from Mexico, Fernando who hosted me in Playa is visiting South East Asia for a month. I invited him to our house for Chinese New Year. It was fun to have him experienced the new culture and festival. 

So returning to the reality has been tough but not enough to put me down yet! I still have good friends and family to support me. They keep me on my feet. I love them all.