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Sichuan Summary

Operation Xibakton (aka Seabuckthorn)


It was a fantastic trip. But too cold. For sure. As J said, budget/rural winter (vs luxurious winter) is no fun because you can't be guaranteed heat when you're done playing in the cold. Hot water that runs out on you, and hotel room temperatures below 15 degrees? For tropical people that's a disaster. Good experience, but probably not going to repeat in a long while.

If you're looking for a really smooth and tightly planned trip, you'd better have lots of Wechat local connections. Even then, I don't think China is meant for that kind of tight planning. Our driver told us that especially in winter, no one pre-books accommodation. It's 20% more expensive, and there is a high possibility of delay due to bad weather. We were very fortunate to have J who did extensive research and networking to get our guides, drivers, and accommodation. She's experienced in China travelling, since she goes annually, and her dad does business there. Having the driver helped us a lot in terms of not having to look for sustenance. He just stopped the car and we hopped off to eat. We never went anywhere with bad food. Pretty amazing.

Glad we got to see pandas and the glaciers. I know pandas live in the Singapore zoo, but hey, China is their natural environment right! I learnt quite a bit about glaciers through wiki after going to see them, although I'm not confident in knowledge reproduction. Danba and the Tibetan homestay was probably my favourite part of the trip (except the drama of the hike). I love farmstays! Laobanniang was so modern and cool. She's from Xiamen but married into a Tibetan family. Her husband got a huge shock when she called him from the top of Dafeng (she hadn't told him she was going to do it). The Tibetan architecture is gorgeous and I love having someone explain to me what things mean.

The best thing we did was to summit Dafeng, which for a while I was not confident of doing, given my early AMS and all the coughing and food poisoning going around. Very happy we did so. The terrain was not extreme but the conditions were (the cold and altitude). Proud of all of us for making it. Very thankful to God that the weather was so good! It was sunny and not too windy. Just a few days prior (the day we were at Hailuogou) my friends climbed Dafeng in heavy wind and snowfall and with purple fingers.

One thing I regret is not having enough time to ice climb. If I ever go back there for Yading and Jiuzhaigou, it will be in the fall. No more of this winter nonsense! But also no ice climbing. The Milan guy brought people to climb at Shuangqiaogou on the day we left for the hike. What with the briefing and the gearing up, it's a full day event even if you only climb a few routes. I don't want to learn to do it, I just wanted to try. Next time then!

By the way, seabuckthorn is a kind of orange citrusy fruit that grows there. It's got lots of vitamin C and other nutrients and I drank it when I was sick. The whole team seemed a huge fan of the canned drink they sold at Milan. They also made alcohol out of it.


China Culture

Culture wise, China is cool because it's familiar and yet sufficiently dissimilar to provoke interest. I never fully understood how different the people groups were in China (as evidenced by the Tibetans). The food is also so different regionally. Remembering to throw tissue paper in the bin and not the toilet bowl was a trip, as well as the discussion on whether to face the door or the wall when using the squatting toilet (conclusion is that it's dependent on the location of the hole). People are generally pretty nice but they have no concept of personal space and will physically push past you if it's a squeeze.

Phone payment is very popular, and you can use it to make purchases at most places, even a wet market. Apparently at some places you can even use face ID, without bringing your phone or wallet. The uptake rate of this technology amongst their middle-aged and elderly is pretty crazy compared to Singapore. They're so ready to embrace it.

I found it really weird when I realised Sichuan is on the same longitude as southern Spain and Northern Mexico. It's just so mountainous and high altitude, that's why it's so freaking cold.

I can't say I really like Sichuan food, apart from the noodles. It's too salty and spicy for me, despite how great it generally tastes. I'm not a fan of mala. My tolerance has increased greatly after having to eat so much of it, but I'd prefer not to. Hongyou anything is yummy, just a bit jelak. I don't really like the red powder they put on the BBQ stuff though. Their mantou is too huge and plain to enjoy. The bao is not bad but not fantastic. Only the barley flat cakes I could eat forever, as I could their noodles, whether qingtang or hongyou. Sichuan noodles FTW! Best thing ever! Highlight of my trip. Really got to find myself a good one in Singapore.

The Team

We all brought something to the table. Here's a quick rundown (including one on me - B wrote me one. It was 6 verses but I only put in 1, because it's my blog! I can choose how embarrassed I want to be, but the others can't.)

J: our China expert and translator, she arranged pretty much all of our accommodation, activity, and transport. Famous for her grunts and groans indicating anything from extreme displeasure at the lack of hot water, to joy in snuggling into a warm bed at the end of a long day. The near-mythical final form Tipsy-J is extremely funny, if you are able to draw her out of her lair with very light beer. Beware when angsty.

S: action cam master with multiple tools at his disposal, he is bolstering his burgeoning career as a motivational influencer giving TedTalks on youtube. Complains the least and takes to the cold air readily in fewer thick layers than anyone else. Has the best one liners. Always watches out for those who need help, especially on the hike. The only one to complete the hike without any training whatsoever. Entertaining when provoked to nervousness.

W: shower and toilet master. Never fails to take a shower once accommodation is reached, no matter the activity after. When missing, you can assume he's in the toilet as his bladder is apparently quite small. Constantly requesting mala throughout the trip even before the hike, and ate every meal with chilli. Prefers to speak in MMORPG language and refers to dragons and quests daily. Currently training to be a Chinese food critic on youtube, and planning for a crossover episode with S.

B: alongside W, shower master. Secondary level toilet master. Has achieved Ben-state and is able to enter into it within ten minutes of reaching any accommodation (Ben-state definition: be prepped for the next day and in bed beneath the blanket unmoving). Has a creepy delight in watching others silently under the cover of darkness. Background B also features in many when-you-see-it photos. He likes peach tea flavoured food and is a licensed Diamox provider.

Strong, silent, steadfast and tall
She has no need to continue to grow
She'll hold her own in peace and war
But crumble at the slightest cold

And lastly, a thoughtful note from W about me: slips and falls, looks like she's got a shit skid mark on the way down.


Financial Summary

Not including gear and insurance, I spent about $1.2k for an 8 day trip. That's not the cheapest trip around but ok I guess.


  • Gear purchased is for the long term so it technically doesn't need to be here, but it was painful spending so much before the trip so I've included it (Sierra Designs Whitney Dri-down hoodie $135, Patagonia R2 techface $200 (too expensive but I love it), Salomon Ultra 3 GTX mid $260, 2pc claimable Smartwool merino 150 baselayers $172)
  • Food is complicated because it includes Shifu's food. It was too difficult to separate it, so some of it can be attributed to transport instead of food. Food wasn't really that cheap overall. Noodles and breakfast were about S$4, while our hotpot and zhichar meals were quite expensive at S$5-8.
  • Activity was mainly the Dafeng guide and sleeping bags and all the entrance passes and bus and cable car tickets.
  • Transport includes cabs and paying for the hired driver's accommodation.
  • Accommodation was cheap, perhaps because it was low season. Since we booked online, it was probably still more expensive than it could have been.

Posted by seaskimmer 06:43 Archived in China Tagged sichuan review summary

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