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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 Comments (0)

Yet another summary

I've been so busy, haven't had time to do any writing! This will be a summary of everything since then. Sorry I'm so lazy.

For reference, my normal school schedule (not including seminars) is Tuesday morning, wed morning, Thursday whole day with long break between, Friday possibly morning.

Summary of events:

14th Monday: Lüneburg
15th Tuesday: Cell!
16th Wednesday: uninspired climb session
17th Thursday: long day in school
18th Friday: Good Friday! Day in Lübeck

19th Saturday: day in Bremen, das Wetter war sehr schön. At S's place again that night for wifi and blankets for wh

20th Sunday: Resurrection Sunday service! Met cool guy who recommended the large park/small reserve at mittlerer landweg to cycle. Had a sehr schön afternoon stroll and read at Blankenese, met up with m and wh at the hbf. Accidental 7 eur Döner Teller dinner sigh.

21st Monday: Lüneburg again with m and wh haha. I brought them round as I did exactly a week ago, the difference was that m and wh were much more happy to sit and soak in the atmosphere. Sat at the top of the kalkberg for an hour or more, and later at a random cafe on schröderstraße for another few hours! It was a much nicer day than the week so many were out in the sun at the many cafes on that street. So nice to have long talks with friends! It's been a long time, since E and S in Ireland.

Went home, cooked nice dinner, then to T's place so m can have a long talk with him haha. Ended up leaving at 2 plus am Hahaha. Good times.

22nd Tuesday: woke up at 8 urghhh, earlier than usual so that I could get m and wh wifi in school! Also they don't have the transport pass so we walked to school, additional time there. Cool thing, eduroam. As long as you have an eduroam account you can use it in any school! C'est enorme.

Class, then went for lunch with them (poor people, they don't have cheap school food hehe) and then class again. Photo together and with t, then back home. Out to rewe to get sandwich material for their dinner in Amsterdam that evening, ostensibly also for m to buy a bunch of chocolates! Okay i bought a whole lot of rittersport you can't find in sg, with advice on which ones they were.

Back to pack and make sandwiches. Then I went with them to the hbf and saw them off to their train to the airport. Actually had one of those wave as they go off in the train moments. More on this later.

Back home again, I was just about sympathising with S since her bf just left at the same time (he'd stayed over a few days) but then suddenly he turned up again (we used the doorbell for the first time. That was exciting) because he missed his flight haha. So then I couldn't sympathise with her but ah well he's a cool guy.

23rd Wednesday: class then use wifi in school. I forgot to bring my credit card so I didn't buy anything but I did all the research for the buying. Off for another uninspiring climb, I need new tiles, new routes, and a new training routine, but mostly I think I need to set routes again. Haven't been doing that. Not enough tiles I think, but that's just an excuse. Headed back, cooked and ate dinner, talked with S some more. Went to the other S's place o return blankets and for wifi again so I could book various tickets, then back to pack a bit more.

24th Thursday: we've reached today! Hurrah. Woke up and rushed to school for morning class. In the end it was cancelled, I don't even know when the announcement was made, I checked studIp so many times. Went back early, packed, called parents, cooked lunch, made awesome sandwiches for dinner.

On the sandwiches: lettuce, tomato, red pepper, buttered bread, ham. And then this patty, or attempted patty. Should have learned from the previous day that one egg is not enough to glue together a whole chunk of minced pork. Nonetheless I tried it again. And failed. Then bright idea to used melted cheese, it worked somewhat! Cooled the meat down completely at room temperature and then in the fridge, then it was ready to be out together. 3 of those sandwiches and then 2 Nutella and ham sandwiches for breakfast. Seriously it's good, the salty and the sweet together. Mmmm.

Yesterday night I actually realised that I'd bought my ticket using D's credit card! Scared, and sent emails to deutsche Bahn. Because when you buy the ticket they say it's important to have the same credit card, and also I did get checked for the credit card on my first CNL (city night line) train. But today's train was the first train I actually bought so I didn't really know yet I guess. Today I printed out some details so that I can try to prove that I didn't steal the credit card or something. Was praying so hard haha. Thank God, they didn't check. Hopefully the one back home also won't (is Hamburg home now?)

Just met and talked to this cool German girl, K, for a few hours, she speaks English but I told her I wanted to practice German. She was very patient with me and really helped me a lot! Honestly I hardly speak any German in Hamburg cos everyone is so international. But anyway looks like I managed to get info and company for Lüneburger Heide! Yay! Fantastic. I've been wanting to go for a while now, just not enough info.

Old friends
Okay, and now some thoughts. As m and wh and I were having dinner on Monday, I commented on how a year ago I couldn't have seen us doing this. Having a home cooked dinner, us three together, in my dorm in Germany. How strange it is that we should be thrown together like that. Or rather they, cos they're in the same uni otherwise they'd never hang out together.

It was so nice to have friends to talk to again! I mean, I've made lots of new friends (okay maybe acquaintances) which is cool and fun and interesting, but it was so comfortable to talk to people I've known for a few years. It's the same as travelling for a long time and then returning home.

I was honestly really sad that they left. It's like I'd gotten used to not having old friends around, then suddenly they come and I remember what it's like and then I can't bear to have them go again! Like picking at the scab of an old wound, except not so serious and not so dramatic haha. But it's okay, I mean I'm on the way to meet old climbing friends. And I might travel with wh and m and L to Munich!! Just nice that the dates I was looking at are exactly the dates that they've already booked. That's thanks to the efficiency of L haha.

Connectivity Update
So. Agree several falsely, cruely raised hopes, I think I've finally got internet! S and I both sent another complaint letter to Baade haha. But it turns out that we've had a internet form sitting in our mail boxes for a few days now. Just that we both still haven't gotten our Post Schlüssels which is why we haven't seen it. But according to others in the dorm. Pulled out the form from the hole, signed it without reading (all in German. But I saw the word internet repeated many times) and passed it to A to help us submit.

Sooooo Internet should be here tomorrow! Of course I won't be there to see it, and actually neither will S, so now I have an incentive to return to Hamburg after this awesome Fontainebleau trip hahahahha. It's like Christmas, it's gonna be great, I can't wait to have wifi in my own room! Maybe you guys with 24h access to unlimited internet will think I'm like enslaved to it or something, but I've lived without it for enough time to appreciate it. Honestly I'm so excited. Hehehehe :)

Alright, it's 1230am and I'm halfway between Göttingen and Frankfurt now. Time to sleep, not because I need to get up early (930 eta) but because I'm simply tired and haven't had much rest lately.

Hope that this weekend will be crazy fun, that Fontainebleau will live up to expectations but not be too hard. And also that when I get back I'll actually feel like studying cos I really need to!! Furthermore pray that my mapping will go well and that Cecilia will give me what I want! Cos I really don't want to take air pollution, it feels like ese3201 again and it's on friday. I've planned too many things on Friday already.


PS I really should get my photos of everything up on fb. And look at my Lübeck and Bremen photos so I can actually remember what I did there. Promise to get a 'review' of each up.

Posted by seaskimmer 15:42 Archived in Germany Tagged germany hamburg daytrip summary Comments (0)

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