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Romance in the rough
13 October 2009


Romance in the rough
By Tan Yi Hui

For some newlyweds, honeymoons are all about having an adrenalin rush in a rugged environment.


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Introduction

When climbing a mountain in Nepal last year, Ms Alice Giam was floored by altitude sickness. A ruggedly handsome Nepalese man who was on the same trekking team carried her on their two-hour journey back to the safety of the base camp. She was so moved that she would have married him right there and then if he had asked. Only thing was, she was already married to him. Ms Giam and Mr Narayan Shrestha was on their honeymoon.

For most people, honeymoons mean romance and relaxation but there are adventurous couples who literally venture off the beaten path, looking for an adrenalin rush or a rugged experience to mark their marriage.

So why do some newlyweds rough it out? Mostly, it is because they share a love for the outdoors.

Mr Shrestha runs a trekking agency in his country and met Ms Giam when she signed up for one of his tours.

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Story

On a misty mountain path more than 4000m above sea level, Ms Giam is decked out in trekking gear as she stands firm in the chilly wind. It is her third day waiting for her husband to return from Island Peak, a 6190m summit in the Himalayas in Nepal.

Finally, familiar shapes appear through the mist. She strains to see if he is among the trekkers and spots him in his red jacket. She runs to embrace him, almost tripping over rocks in sheer relief and joy.

This reunion scene straight out of a Hollywood movie was the highlight of the couple’s honeymoon last year.

They met two years ago on a trekking trip in Nepal. Ms Giam, a Singaporean, was a first-time mountain climber and her guide was her future husband.

Mr Shrestha, a Singaporean permanent resident, runs a trekking agency based in Nepal and Singapore.

They got married last year and went on an 18-day trip to scale Island Peak. Such a trip costs about $3600 a person, including airfare from Singapore, but the couple paid only a fraction of the price because they went with their own agency. Ms Giam quit her events planning job to join her husband’s company after the wedding.

She says:” We went on a few trekking trips when we were dating, but I’m not as strong as he is and I do get altitude sickness. Two weeks before the honeymoon, I had nightmares about it. But he had been wanting to tackle the peak and since we were married, we thought, why not do it together? If I had backed out, it would have spoilt the mood.”

Sure enough, at 5000m above sea level, altitude sickness hit her. She could have descended to safety of the base camp with escorts, but Mr Shrestha insisted on carrying her down himself – a two-hour trek – before resuming his journey towards the summit.

Chuckling fondly at the memory, Ms Giam says:” Somehow, I felt like, oh, I chose the right husband.”

She waited anxiously for three days for his return. As his birthday fell on one of those days, she had prepared an apple pie for him. Laid out in candy on the pie were the words “Happy Birthday, Deepak”.

Accommodation throughout consisted of Spartan trekkers’ lodgings with “wooden walls so thin you could hear the person next door snoring””.

But Ms Giam says:” Romance doesn’t have to be about lying on the beach. It’s about the little things that you do for each other on a trip.”

She and Mr Shrestha are not done yet. They intend to hit a new high when they have children one day. Says Ms Giam:” We’ll take our kids to Everest.”
     
     
Bhutan : A Trekker’s Paradise
02 October 2009


The majesty of the snow-laden Himalayan mountains, rising abruptly from the plains of the Indian subcontinent is a sight beyond comparison.

Bhutan is situated in the Eastern Himalayas to the east of Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim and to the south of the autonomous region of Tibet. When you fly into Bhutan on a clear day from Delhi and Kathmandu, you will see 8 of the 14 highest mountains of the world, including Mt Everest, as well as a range of impressive Bhutanese peaks to the east. Silence besets the passengers on the Druk Air flight as they experience the awe-inspiring approach to Paro airport.

On a Bhutan trek, views of mountain ranges soaring to above 7000m are enjoyed in all their splendor – the lofty Jumolhari (7314m), the pointed Jichu Drakey (6794m), Thsering-Gang (6789m), Masang-Gang (7149m), Gangkhar Puensum (7239m) and many others.

Most of the trekking routes in Bhutan are in the central and northern areas, known as the Higher Himalaya. Trekkers start from altitudes of around 2400m and cross passes as high as 6000m. The lower altitude winter trekking routes that range between 1300m and 1800m enable the less hardy trekker to enjoy the beauty of a semi-tropical and tropical climate.

All the treks are a paradise for lovers of flora, fauna and photography. Bhutan has close to 700 species of birds. Of these, 24 are registered as endangered species. There are 46 species of rhododendron with at least 4 found only in Bhutan. The Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Golden Langur and Takin are some of the rare animals that can be found in Bhutan.

The trekker will often feel transported a hundred years or more back into the past. The way of life in the countryside has changed little: subsistence farming is the norm in Bhutan and the culture is strongly influenced by Mahayana Buddhism and the rigours of living in the mountains. However, there are many anachronisms that pleasantly remind us of the present, one of them being the eloquent English skills of even the smallest primary school children who will greet you with “Hello sir, hello madam” as you approach their village.

We have a range of trekking routes suitable for the first timers, the adventurous and the hard core trekkers. Take your pick!

Best Season: Nov - Feb

Low Altitude Treks (Grade 1 – 2)
11 Days Bhutan Samtegang Trek & Cultural Tour
14 Days Punakha Winter Trek


Best Season: Mar - Jun (for alpine flowers) & Sep - Nov

Medium Altitude Trek (Grade 2 - 3)
15 Days Bumthang Cultural Trek
10 Days Gasa Hot Spring Trek & Cultural Tour (Nov - Feb)
10 Days Bumdrak Trek with Cultural Tour
12 Days Chelila Nature Trek with Cultural Tour


Best Season: Mar - Jun and Sep - Oct

High Altitude Treks (Grade 4)
12 Days Druk Path Trek with Cultural Tour
12 Days Drakey Pangtso Trek with Cultural Tour
14 Days Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek
     
     
Kent Ridge Secondary School – Sec 3 Career Talk
03 September 2009


Deepak and I had the pleasure of being invited to Kent Ridge Secondary School to share our personal job experiences at the Sec 3 Career Talk. Various industry practitioners were invited to talk to different group of students subject to their interest.

We thought this was a great move for students to gain insights to the outdoor tourism industry and our profession. Interestingly, the organizing teacher divulged that the group sitting in our talk was the biggest group. Our guess is that the appeal of our profession stems from its people-oriented nature.

Deepak shared on some of the following key areas including

1. Job scope
2. Working hours, perks, income level, professional development
3. Alternative career paths in the industry
4. Opportunities for promotion and how to keep up with developments and changes in the industry
5. Sacrifices made to achieve ambition
6. Key qualities and pre-requisite to enter profession

It was also a learning experience for us as we learnt about their perception of our industry. Gathering from the questions, it seemed most do not know where to begin from to obtain the right qualifications to enter the industry.

Well, in my opinion, joining the trade is easy (look at all the fun!) but sustaining the interest while doing the hard-core ground work (from having to trek to at least 5000m and managing the daily nitty-gritty) do require much perseverance!
     
     
New Itinerary!
7 Days Langtang Heli–Trek

30 July 2009


The Langtang Valley is located only 19 miles north of Kathmandu. This is the most scenic trekking in Nepal among some of the most beautiful trekking trails in the country. This Langtang trek towards the base of Langtang Himalaya, north of Katmandu valley, offers shortest approach to snow mountain.

The Langtang valley surrounded by snow peaks takes you up to Kyangjin at 3800 meter, where you get an opportunity to take half day excursion to Kyangjin Ri 4350m. From the top Kyangjin Ri you will get to see the 360 degree mountain views around you.

We are introducing the Private Helicopter trip with 3 days of trekking. This both way helicopter ridge will give you best view of Northern Himalayan Ranges which includes Langtang Ranges. Langtang valley is the closest place to see massive snow capped mountain range from Katmandu valley.

Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu (1300m)
Day 02: Kathmandu - Ghora Tabela (3000m)
Day 03: Langtang - Kyangjin gimp (3049 m)
Day 04: Kyanjin Gompa - Langtang – Ghora Tabela
Day 05: Ghore tabela – Kathmandu
Day 06: Kathmandu
Day 07: Kathmandu - Departure


Click here to view itinerary and package details.

For further information, please email us or call us at 92954313 / 81980838.
Photo from cosleyhouston.com
     
     
New Itinerary!
9 Days Kalinchok Trek with 2 Days Bhotaykoshi Whitewater Rafting

30 July 2009


Kalinchok is a short and marvelous trek in non touristy eastern Nepal. Trekking through rhododendron forests and sparse ethnic villages, Kalinchok trek offers spectacular views of eastern Himalayas. After crossing Sherpa villages you come across a thick forest with lots Rhododendron trees. In spring each year the entire forest on this region blooms with rhododendron flowers.

From the highest altitude of Kalinchok (3579meters) we could get a good view of Annapurna, Lamjung, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Shisha Panga , Langtang, Dorjee Lakpa, Jugal Himal, Amabamori, Gauri Shanker, and Namburi Himal. There is also a prominent temple of the Hindus called the Kali temple.

Two natural springs originate from this area which are called Sundhara and Tama which are the main source of the very big two rivers the Sunkoshi and Tama Koshi rivers.

While descending to Suspa, you can get to see a very rare community in Nepal called "The Thami."

The trek ends at Charikot which is also a district head quarters of Dolakha.

Day 01: Arrive – Kathmandu (1300m)
Day 02: Kathmandu – Kharidhunga - Halahale (2750 m)
Day 03: Halahale - Bulbule (2850m)
Day 04: Bhulbhule - Kuri (3,300 m)
Day 05: Kuri - Charikot (1700m)
Day 06: Charikot - Bhotekoshi Whitewater Rafting
Day 07: Sukutay – Kathmandu
Day 08: Kathmandu
Day 09: Kathmandu - Singapore


Click here to view itinerary and package details.

Click here to view photos of our Kalinchok Trek.

For further information, please email us or call us at 92954313 / 81980838.
     
     
Christ Church Secondary Girls Team at Everest Base Camp April 2009
05 June 2009


The EBC Girls were back!

Known as the Centre of Interest in Outdoor Education, Christ Church Secondary School started planning for an 18 day trek to Everest Base Camp since last year. Emulating after the Singapore Women Everest Team, this adventure team was made up of 3 female teachers (Ms Puah, Mrs Ang, Ms Tay), 6 girls (Cherry, Wenting, Yuki, Xin Fang, Priscilla & Cheryl) and a female trip leader from YMCA. They have only one goal – to trek to Everest Base Camp (5360m) and meet up with the Singapore Women Everest Team (perhaps).

It was an honor for Divine to be given the opportunity to collaborate with the school again for the third time in their outdoor adventures. We were very excited about bringing the girls to the Everest Base Camp and back safely.

During the trip briefing at the beginning of the year, many parents were listening intently what to expect for their daughters who were training rigorously then. Deepak, being the representative official from Nepal Tourism Board, gave parents more insights to Nepal and its mountains. No questions went unanswered, we were glad we gained their support and understanding by the end of the session. Thereafter, our efforts were focused on making all arrangements to ensure the girls’ successful journey to the Base Camp.

In March, Deepak and I were back in Kathmandu for work and home visit. We met the team upon their arrival. Not leaving anything to chance, we conducted yet another detailed briefing over lunch and made sure everyone absorbed the information and was well-prepared. Everyone was excited about the impending journey even though they had seen photo slides and were briefed by their teachers. I should have videoed their little ‘Diamox* Ceremony’ over dinner. I have not seen anything as hilarious as what they did – must ‘yum seng’ with the Diamox pill* before swallowing!

(*Note: Diamox is the most tried and tested drug for altitude sickness prevention.)

The EBC Trek we had planned for the group was a well-paced one including acclimatization days and buffer for possible flight delay. As the altitude got higher, the more challenging it got for them. We were back in Singapore during the course of their trek but monitored the journey everyday. Their chief guide Tin would call us from various phone points to report safety.

After almost trekking for almost 10 days, 6 of them made it to the Everest Base Camp (5360m) and met up with the Singapore Women Everest Team. The experience of having made it there and meeting up with their mentors was exhilarating! For these teenagers who grew up in the tropics, I would say it was no mean feat.

They had seen for themselves how a Base Camp dotted with expedition tents looked like, experienced the wonders of standing triumph at the foothill of Mount Everest and understood in this journey that nothing is impossible if they set their hearts to it. It was truly an experience of a lifetime for them.

It must have felt surreal upon return to the city. The team was back in Singapore on 13 April. Guess what? They are now known as the ‘EBC Girls’ in school and I believe whom many regard as role models because of what they achieved.

With the victorious return of our very own Singapore Women Everest Team and the inspiring journey made by the Christ Church team, I wondered, what would our very own Everest be?

Perhaps we can take a moment, think about a seemingly impossible task for ourselves and set our mind (or heart) to achieve it? I am sure the achievement will impact and change the way we live.

For now, these amazing EBC Girls seem to be aiming for Island or Mera Peak next.

Click here to see the girls’ gorgeous album of their Everest journey.
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IN THE MEDIA

Singapore women reach Everest Base Camp
Posted: 09 April 2009 1036 hrs


Nepal: The team of Singapore women climbers have reached Everest Base Camp, bringing them closer in their attempt to scale Everest.

In an update emailed from the camp which stands at 5300 metres above sea-level the women said they were spending time getting acclimatised.

"After close to five years of preparation, we're finally here!" said a member of the NATAS SWET team in an email sent through a communication platform set up with support from Singapore telecommunications firm SingTel.

The six-member team ascended Everest Base Camp (EBC) from Lobuche high camp (5,200m) climbing over rocks and boulders in the darkness.

Although the team's EBC 'home' for the next two months is at a height of 5,300m which is higher than most mountains in the European Alps, it didn't prevent visitors from dropping by.

Giving the women a pleasant surprise were students and teachers from Singapore's Christ Church Secondary School. They had treked hills to pay the visit which saw the students leaving littles notes written on song sheets while the teens made their journey to meet the Everest team.

"This journey was meant to inspire and instill confidence in the students and as a gesture of encouragement to the team" said a member of Singapore's first women Everest team.

"We were immensely touched and inspired by their visit... We were very encouraged by this and impressed by the strength and perseverance they have displayed in making their way here.

They said that this was their little way of reminding us of Singapore, but to us, their presence have already brought 'home' to us, right here in the Himalayas."

The team of led by student development officer Jane Lee, 24; training facilitator Sim Yihui, 26; copywriter Esther Tan, 26; pharmaceutical-product specialist Lee Lihui, 27; business owner Joanne Soo, 38; and army officer Lee Peh Gee,32; embarked on their historic climb on March 21.

Click here to read original post on Channel News Asia online.

     
     
In search of Marpha Apples
13 May 2009


While in Nepal, we decided to visit Jomsom.

The Jomsom Trek is a classic trek, essentially the final third of the Annapurna Circuit and the gateway to Mustang. It follows the Kali Gandaki Valley between the soaring peak of Annapurna & Dhaulagiri and finally emerges to the north of the main Himalayan range, on the dry, desert- like Tibetan Plateau. A several days walk beyond Jomsom will take trekkers to the final destination, Muktinath, the holy temple. This trek allows access to the high mountains of the Himalayas within a reasonable time frame and without ascending to extreme altitude.

Our highlight of the trip was to visit Marpha village situated in Nepal's Kali Gandaki Valley, the deepest valley in the world. One of the most beautiful stops on the Annapurna Circuit trek, Marpha is known as the "capital of apples". Surrounded by apple orchards and fields where mainly buckwheat, potatoes and maize are grown, the Thakali people of Marpha make a living from animal husbandry, trade and tourism. You cannot miss Marpha apples or its products while in Marpha. There were apple brandy, apple pies, apple juice, apple cidar, apple rings etc. However, it was not the apple season when we were there but we still had the apple juice. They must be the best apple juice I ever had in my life. The distinctive fragrance was unmistakable. In fact, we often try to buy Marpha apples even in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Nowadays, the Jomsom area is getting more accessible. One is able to drive a jeep or ride a motorcycle from Beni all the way up to Muktinath. It can be a rather interesting sight to see trekkers walking alongside vehicles on their trek!
Back to Himalayan Inn in Jomsom, Deepak was lounging out in the living room area, reading newspapers and having his hot chocolate. It was a really heart-warming sight to see him in a relaxed mode, I thought, this Nepali man hardly rest on his laurels even during off-peak seasons. We were back in Pokhara by flight the next day and continued our work holiday.

Click here to view our Jomsom trek album.

Click here to view a Jomson trek itinerary.

Important Tip for Jomsom Trek:
The wind is very strong along the Jomsom trek. It is important to bring a good shawl to cover your face and keep yourself warm on the trek.


NEW ITINERARY!

4 Wheel Drive Adventure to Lower Mustang
In view of the easy accessibility to Jomsom and beyond, we have created a new itinerary for anyone who is interested in a 4-wheel-drive journey to Lower Mustang. It is suitable for families too if you are looking for some hassle-free adventure!

Click here to view our new 4-wheel-drive itinerary to Jomsom.