The 26 Summits

What happens when you sit together with friends, drink a glass (or more) of good red wine? Chance is that the conversation will sooner or later turn to one or more “to do” (aka bucket) lists. The “Seven Summits” are so passé and so yesterday; today’s adventurers focus on local challenges, environmentally friendly and doable by fair means.

An obvious target would be the ten highest peaks of Singapore, but since Bukit Tima remains closed well into 2017 and I don’t want to hike up the road to the main peak, Switzerland is the next best thing. Why not scale the highest peak of each of Switzerland’s 26 Cantons (Swiss for “province”) ?

So here we go, a new challenge in born: 15 out of the 26 summits are comparatively easy hikes, about 10 of them require mountaineering skills and one is a difficult rock climbing effort. Details are here.

I think I climbed eight of them, so approximately one third through!

Last Saturday we hiked up the tallest mountain of Kanton Basel-Landschaft. The trail starts in a village, winds-up through a small gorge, meets the terminus of a cable car and finally, after 660 meters of altitude difference, the “Hinteri Egg” @ 1169 meters above sea level is reached. A gentle downhill hike et voila: one more is off the list 🙂

Next one: either Jura, Solothurn or Aargau – stay tuned

 

 

 

Desert Trekking in China

June 2016, we trekked seventy kilometres through the Badain Jaran, which is part of the Gobi desert in China.

The executive summary:

phase one: Singapore –> Hong Kong –> Beijing –> Jinchang –> Alxa Youqin

phase two: walk, sand, camels, sand, fun, wind, sand, tents, sand, lake, sand, watermelons, sand, yoghurts and sand

phase three: the reverse of phase one


A 90 seconds, high level, executive, condensed, highlights-only, key summary video in HD of our trek is on

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please subscribe to my channel after you watch the movie – thank you.


I particularly like this desert portrait of Tim (who else….). The original is in color. I decided to convert it with Silver Efex Pro 2 (free plug-in from Google) to black and white, which accentuates the clouds nicely and the dunes’ shapes form such a perfect leading line to the model. Furthermore, the little cloud seemingly guarding over Tim acts like a gigantic flash light helping him to light-up his selfie.

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The B&W pictures in the gallery were processed with Nik Colour Efex Pro 2 and Adobe Lightroom. For the pixel peepers: you will notice lots and lots of spots, especially in the darker areas of the pictures. Even though spot removal in Lightroom works well, removing hundreds of them is a lot of work. Lesson learnt: next time get the sensor cleaned before going on a trip.

Jalan Jalan

Family city-hopping to Kuala Lumpur for sightseeing, sampling local delicacies and – you guessed it – supporting the retail industry.


Day one : flight on time, smooth aiport transfer from KLIA2 to downtown and a clean, comfortable room in a nice, conveniently located hotel.

Not quite like that: something wrong with the plane, 90 minutes delay, immigration super smooth, the taxi driver confuses his Proton Wira with a Formula 1 car and dashes over the often poorly lit roads at lightening speed, then the climax in the Novotel: first room has two single beds only – how are three paying guests supposed to sleep in two single beds? Receptionista offers a king bed plus roll-in extra, good move, but then the room: The windows cannot be closed properly, curtains fall down, stained pillow covers. Management has mercy on us: we get upgraded to the executive floor. The room is clean, slightly bigger, but upon closer inspection not really up to any decent standard either. Pictures taken in the bathroom:

This place invites to rant about it.. We would like to drink a glas of red wine in the Lobby bar, the waiter offers some very warm red wine from Argentina. We ask whether the wine is avaialable slightly colder than @ 28 degrees, he replies that red wine needs to be enjoyed warm.

And the icing on the cake: the room is decidedly non-vegetarian: lots of ants fight with us over space. Anyway, after all we will spend just a few hours sleeping in that room each night, no need to get carried away. But a neat review on Tripadvisor will follow.


Day 2, Friday 21.05.2016: multi-culti confusion (Confucian?) breakfast up to the time limit, at 10:20 we are reminded that the buffet will close in 10 minutes.

Sightseeing on the hoponhopoff bus, during which Laetitia spends a comfortable hour napping on my numbing arm – that’s one way of exploring a new place.


Saturday: We visit the Batu caves, apparently one of the holiest places for Hindus outside of the Indian subcontinent. A short dip into a colourful world and a rich experience for all senses, well worth the 25 minutes train ride from downtown KL…return train ticket was MYR13.50 for 3 persons (surprised & impressed). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An in-depth encounter with the local retail scene in Jalan Petaling is followed by a decent Italian dinner.


Keen to experience the diversity of Malaysia ? Spend a few hours in a place like Berjaya Times Square on a Sunday. Harajuku Hello Kitty meets the most trendy Hijabs and Nasi Lemak can be rounded off by Hong Kong style egglets. 

the journey back home is safe and smooth 🙂


May 2016

my first multi-day mountain biking event

I’m regularly riding my Merida hardtail since we moved back to the Lion City in 2012. Regularly means one to two times a week, recently closer to three times a week, each ride is in the 35 km (+/- 15 km) distance range. The tri-weekly bike hash adds some high level cardio to it, when I (often unsuccessfully) try to keep up with the semi-pros in the group.

The point is: I’m not training any multi-day riding, hence any multi-stage event, no matter how easy or difficult it might be, appears too much of a challenge. So where to start – with the ambition in mind – to join a multi-stage event in the near (or far) future?

The 2016 Phuket Interbike Hash is a good opportunity to test stamina and endurance and find a yardstick for my body’s ability to recover overnight in a reasonably demanding environment (AKA the bloody heat..). The organisers in Phuket promised ample supply of drinking water and opportunities to short-cut the ride. Head over to the “Schnitzeljagd” post for an unbiased introduction into “hashing”.

The ride on day one leads over app 27 km through dry fields and forests, a few single trails, past some angry buffalos, a few detours and not much climbing, i.e. a nice warm-up. Hydration and hydration is the mantra of the day. I feel good after the ride, the legs not too tired. The circle takes close to two hours, luckily the dinner buffet is fixed at 20:00, otherwise the show would have continued for another few hours. Apparently their record is a six hours circle.

Day two leads us through villages, over asphalt roads (a particular pleasure in the plain afternoon heat) into a forest, back on a road, where I overlook a left turn and end up doing 2 km extra. A second oversight of an obvious sign leads me into another dead end and back, all chances of riding with the fast&furious are gone by now.

I’m on my own, just riding at my own speed, cruising through forest and villages, grinding through a few very steep climbs, which I manage to ride and Gopro-ing good chunks of it.

Down to the beach, remnants of the 2004 Tsunami are still visible, another five kilometres over asphalt and through a few backyards bring me back to the hotel. 

Two hours twenty pure riding time for 37.8 km. Legs are tired, I’m sweaty and dusty, but not overly exhausted.


inner peace


PS1: Needless to say that the Singapore extremist’s contingent claimed to be the first ones back at the hotel in well under two hours – always must be kiasu 😉

PS2: Endless circle, dinner buffet, by 22:00 I rest my legs.

PS3: A short video is here.

PS4: more about bike hashing here.


May 2016

Kuhltour statt Wandertour

Aaaaaaaaaaaalso: da kommt einer aus den Tropen, reist von weit weit her, sitzt 13 Stunden im Flugzeug und freut sich darauf, in nasskaltem Wetter mit seinen Freunden in der Schweiz outdoor-maessig etwas zu unternehmen. Schifahren in strahlendem Sonnenschein auf dem Feldberg ist genau nach seinem Geschmack (ein Danke an die SPPs), siehe HIER.

Aber oh weh: ein paar Tage spaeter nieselt’s ein wenig, die Temperatur faellt auf ca 10 Grad und schon sind alle Vorsaetze, “the tallest mountain in Baselland” in einer Winterbesteigung zu erklimmen, Makulatur: meine Berg- und Kanu-erprobten Freunde (ebenfalls die SPPs) sprechen von Lawinengefahr, geschlossenen Restaurants und zitieren gar (wahrscheinlich völlig frei erfundene) Einheimische, welche dringend von der Besteigung abrieten.


Dann eben Kultur: Colmar lockt mit Flamekueche, Altstadt und einem Herzog & de Meuron Bau (bald werden HdM-freie Schutzzonen in Zentral-Europa erstellt werden muessen, so von wegen Diversity…)


Colmar ist sympatisch: Rauchen kann toedlich sein ? (Schaufenster einer Apotheke)

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Lord Sidius in weiss trauert um Jesus?

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Frueher war nicht alles besser, aber die Replantations-Chirurgen von anno dazumal hatten echt ‘was drauf…

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Direkt von der HdM www: … The project for the extension of the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar encompasses three dimensions: urban development, architecture and museography. It centers on the issues of reconstruction, simulation and integration….

comment by jrbc: if you don’t understand this artsy-fartsy baloney, don’t worry, you are not alone…




Alle Bilder (c)2016 www.jrbc.net; Nikon Df und NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8 oder NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 (so Hipster-Zeugs eben)

Enjoying Lunch Tête-à-Tête

Many good restaurants are wooing for customers in Singapore. Most of them offer very attractive lunch menus to get you in the mood for an evening return.

Out of the restaurants Jannefa and myself recently visited, “The White Rabbit” deserves a mention for its good food, attentive service and the special location / settings. The carpaccio was succulent, tasty and just the right portion; the pasta cooked al dente with fresh crab and the sherbet in the deconstructed cheese cake was a delight on its own!

see for yourself:

 

Schnitzeljagd

Mountain biking in Singapore scheint auf den ersten Blick “not the most obvious thing to do”, aber wie so oft täuscht der anfängliche Eindruck: mit ein wenig Kreativität lassen sich 200 Kilometer XC-Trail zusammenbasteln: ein halbes Dutzend offiziell markierte Trails ergeben 50 Kilometer, ca 60 Kilometer gibt der Green Corridor her, bevor die Verlegung einer Pipeline 20 km davon für drei Jahre unpassierbar machen wird und der Singapore Bike Hash, bei welchem ich seit drei Jahren Mitglied bin, und andere Clubs sorgen für den Rest.


Der Singapore Bike Hash (www.singaporebikehash.com) ist in fester Hand alteingesessner Angmos, deren Ortskenntnis, Comittment zur Sache, Arroganz und Ignoranz in gleichen Teilen erstaunlich, bewundernswert, geschmacklos und so von total vorgestern sind. Nachwuchsprobleme sind offensichtlich.

Das läuft so: jeden dritten Sonntag trifft sich die Gang (80% Mann und  20% Frau) meist auf einem abgelegenen Parkplatz um 09:45 zur MTB-Schnitzeljagd. Ja nicht zu früh, Zeit muss sein, den vorabendlichen Kater auszuschlafen. Die Hares markieren tags zuvor oder unmittelbar vor dem Anlass mit Kreide und Toiletten-Papier eine ca. 20 Kilometer lange Schlaufe durch Urwald, Sozialwohnungs-Bauten, militärisches Trainingsgelände, Baustellen und anderes Terrain, welches mehr oder weniger XC-tauglich ist. Besonders beliebt sind Trag-Segmente über Fussgaenger-Ueberfuehrungen. Hie und da werden fieserweise Sackgassen, so genannte T-Checks oder Circle-Checks eingebaut, um die unwissenden Hashers zu Pfadfindern werden zu lassen. Bedenkt man die Knappheit an unueberbautem Land in Singapore ist die Kreativität, mit welcher die Spurenleger immer wieder neue Varianten finden, bewundernswert.

Kurz nach dem Start teilt sich das Feld in drei Gruppen: die Fanatiker, welche immer zuerst und zuvorderst sein müssen, jeder T-Check muss in seiner Gänze ausgefahren werden und jede, auch noch so kurze und unbedeutende Steigung gibt genügend Anlass, eine Bergpreiswertung auszurufen. In einem gewissen Abstand folgt die Gruppe Normalradler, die den Parcours mit gemaessigteren Ambitionen absolvieren. Zuletzt die Veteranen, Anfänger und jene, welche am vergangenen Abend so viel gesoffen haben, dass sie sich knapp auf den Velos halten können.

Eine Stunde kann ich mit den Extremos mithalten, den Rest radle ich so lange alleine, bis andere, welche aus der Spitzengruppe zurückfallen, sich zu mir gesellen.

So weit so sehr gut, peinlich, ganz oberpeinlich wird’s anlässlich des “Circles”, jenem biergeschwängerten Teil nach der Fahrt, anlässlich dessen Fahrer aus offensichtlichen und weniger offensichtlichen Gründen in die Mitte gerufen werden und für ihre fehlenden Fahr- und Orientierungskünste und andere banale Vergehen, öffentlich gescholten und unter Gejohle der Menge einen Becher Bier ex und hop hinunterstürzen müssen.

Der Singapore Hash hat sich den gesitteten Sitten des Landes angepasst und verzichtet auf das Zurschaustellung nackter Haut, so wie ich das 2015 in Kuching erlebt habe, wo anlässlich des “Circles” die Angeschuldigten sich nackten Hinterns auf einen Eisblock setzen mussten.


Mein DuSchlauch-Kanal zeigt einige Video von Mamils (see a previous entry for more on that theme) die sich auf und mit ihren Rädern abmühen. Eigentlich immer same same, innovativerweise wechselt die Begleitmusik, welche youtube kostenlos zur Verfügung stellt, von Episode zu Episode. Kein Wunder hat mein Kanal erst 7 Abonnentinnen.

Klick auf das Youtube Logo um zu meinem Kanal zu gelangen und ein “subscribe” aka “abonnieren wäre ganz nett.

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PS: Zwei Monate nach der Erstellung dieses Eintrages, sind der AbonnentInnen nun zehn(e): >40% Wachstum binnen zweier Monate, von solchen Zahlen träumt jeder CEO.

Where Am I ?

Imagine being dropped blind-folded to a place, how do you find out where you are? You hear a foreign language, but cannot not identify it, no unique smells in the air and no local vibrations, pheromones or anything similarly esoteric is palpable.

The blindfold is removed and you see the following three signs decorating the walls of different buildings:
IMG_5535IMG_5534 IMG_5536 (1)

 
Clearly in an English speaking place, right? Maybe Australia, UK, US or sorts thereof. All wrong: the pictures were taken in China, more specifically in one of its Special Administrative Regions, namely Hong Kong, Wan Chai District. You will argue that HK was British, hence no wonder everything in English. 

  

You also might say that everybody has the right to name her or his shops in whichever language they prefer, if they think their clients are being attracted by signs in Aka-Bo (bet you have to google that) so be it. Lastly, you will argue that what I’m observing here is normal elsewhere for a long time already.

Fine fair enough, points all taken, but why is this happening in Hong Kong over the last 18 month only? English is not new or hip in this town (rather the contrary, actually); furthermore pretty much everything in Hong Kong has been either in Chinese or Chinese/English combined. So why on earth am I observing this gradual creep of English only over the recent past? Is this a silent protest against Beijing or somebody trying to preserve an English heritage that might never have existed or a weak shot at being global or some culturally ignorant shop owners pretending to set some kind of weird trend? Please add your conspiracy theory here…..

Am I making a mountain out a molehill or am I just surprised by this recent move away from Chinese language in Hong Kong?

just thinking….

The Annual Beijing Ritual

Beijing fascinates me. Choosing my journey anywhere between the ultra-ancient and the ultra-modern remains incredibly seductive to me. The icing on the cake are the good company and sumptuous meals with friends and acquaintances every time I return.


This is the third trip to Beijing after we moved away from the capital city in June 2012.


The overnight flight from Singapore is on time; with the airport express and the subway I neatly beat rush hour traffic. By 09:00 I’m checked-in and ready to roam and ramble. Let the day one ritual begin: I wander through Central Park, Ritan Park, The Place and other familiar spots and concomitantly “mind-surf” about (mostly) good old memories and check out what has changed since last time and what remains. Restaurants and other shops come and go, a few perennial favourites (such as Annie’s…….) remain, last but not least the hairdresser in Dongdajialu, whom I used to visit frequently, still goes strong.


Comparatively heavy snowfall sets in after lunch. Snow on ancient structures, but which one to visit? Tripod, Nikon Df, ND filter and the GoPro, which has become one of my favourite travel cameras recently, packed and I’m wrapped up in Goretex, I ponder where to go: Tiananmen, Beihei, Ritan Park – nope, I take the subway towards Guangjisi, a small temple housing the headquarters of China’s Buddhist society. It’s relative petiteness, the quiet atmosphere, the paraphernalia shop and probably as a truly unique feature, no need to buy a ticket. Likely the only notable temple in China you can enter without purchasing a ticket (just to mention in case the Lonely Planet web crawler finds this site…).


  


The next morning brings yukee air and an urgent matter from Singapore to attended to, so I transform instantly into a Gen(Y) migrant IT-savvy, roaming worker: I waddle to a Western Coffee Shop, order the mother of all Megatallgigaventilattes, pull an Apple Laptop, notabene a 2009 Macbook Air 13″, which to this date works perfectly well, out of my bag and settle in. This antiquated machine immediately outs me as an outdated GenY-model. The Costas and Shinbakes appear to be flourishing even more than before, maybe Xidada’s disruptive anti-corruption policy drives people form the Abalone cum Ch. Petrus snacks into the Coffee Shops for meetings? One looses, the other one gains.


Day three – what a miracle: cold winds from the North drove all the pollution out of town, I join Beijing hikers (www.beijinghikers.com) for a hike on the Wall. A perfect day: blue skies, panoramic views, the wall covered with a bit of snow, which accentuates the “dragon’s” back making it more visible on its journey over the mountains bordering Hebei and Beijing. A small group of hikers and two funny and competent guides, plenty of photo stops, conversations and laughter.

I stand in awe on the wall, cannot stop gazing around and soaking it in. In the to-be-published Asterix in China, Obelix will certainly say: “delirant, isti Cinesi”.

Check my youtube channel HERE and HERE for some stunning scenery.