Tag-Archive for » China «

Where Every Grain Matters

In Daocheng county, Sichuan, China, the people farm wheat as the climate doesn’t allow them to plant other staple foods like rice. They can only harvest once, at most, twice per year. Stopping for a scenic take of the autumn trees, the workers clearing the wheat chaff on the land attracted my attention to cross the busy road plied by tourists buses using that route to head to Yading. They were constantly bent over, picking & plucking, occasionally rising to toss the little bundles into a woven basket that a boy was carrying. At the scene was an elderly lady with a baby strapped to her back. She seemed happy to converse with the workers. Looking at Andy Phua snapping away, I joined him & watched a scene in the daily lives of this Tibetan tribe.

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A view that leaves you speechless.

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The elderly lady with the baby.

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Back-breaking labour, pulling chaff to prepare the ground for winter before planting again.

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A panoramic view of the stream in Daocheng.

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A scruffy boy I met there.

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A sun-kissed toddler I’ve had the privilege of giving treats to.

Travelling further inward into the country, I caught sight of another group of farmers separating wheat grains using a blower, still manual work of hoisting the basket & pouring the contents into the wind, it was a fascinating experience for me. Learning how hard it is to get so little grain and yet this is all they have got.

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Wrapped my head in Buff™ & with my Cocoons sunglasses and hood, I approached the flying chaff onward to give you an insight of this hard labour.

Technical Jackets to Tackle Terrains

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Yading Nature Park, Sichuan, China – I almost passed out getting this picture. Subzero temperatures, sitting on frosted ground waiting for clouds to clear.

Having zero tolerance for the cold prompted me to look for different jackets & baselayers available for all my outdoor pursuits. Not sure if it’s owing to the lack of hair on my body or my internal heating system/metabolic rate is virtually not working or I may just be wearing clothes with poor insulation. My trip to China allowed me to truly rate each jacket’s warmth & insulation. Let’s just take the last reason for me to shop some more. 😛

I have a Max Cocos insulated micro fibre winter coat for city trips to help me withstand the cold in winter countries when I have to attend meetings but I can’t use the same delicate jacket for outdoor adventure. I remember when I had to cover fam trips in all kinds of expedition around the country where I would tear a pair of pants or two every trip. It was quite a costly affair & this is in the tropics. What about zero degrees or sub zero terrain? I didn’t understand what ‘technical jacket’ was all about until I learnt the technology behind it.

My favourite brand is of course, Animal from UK. They have sizes that fit my long arms & legs perfectly. At 175cm, I tower over most Malaysian men & that’s without heels. I fell in love with the turquoise colour of this jacket & having a waterproof rating of 10,000mm & MVP of 15,000g, this jacket was perfect for times when I have to brave the rain or chilly wind on the dive boat ride back to shore.

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Animal Amaya Jacket

This 3 layer technical fabric is designed to keep water & wind out while venting away excess body heat.

Technical specifications:- 

  • Anitex Technical Fabric
  • Textured Nylon 3 Layer Fabric With DWR
  • Waterproof Rating of 10,000; MVP 15,000
  • Taped Seams
  • Waterproof Zippers
  • Underarm Ventilation
  • Grown On Hood
  • Adjustable Hem And Hood
  • Adjustable Cuffs
  • Reflective Logo

Let’s examine this MVP rating. MVP is moisture vapour permeability. It tells you how much moisture can vaporise through the fabric per m2 per 24 hours. Which means, even if the fabric is waterproof from the outside, it allows sweat to permeate through the fabric without leaving you soaking wet. The waterproofing rating involves testing using a number of different testing protocols but most involve the equivalent of placing a 1” x 1” square tube over the fabric and determining how high (in millimeters) a column of water you can suspend over it before it starts to leak. So when I read that the Animal Amaya jacket has 10,000mm WP, I knew I had to have it.

Then came the Trespass Balbi. Trespass is another UK brand (I love their size 12) that is available online through their website. Being dark grey, I could use it for birding! So I got it in time for my trip to China.

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Trespass Balbi Jacket

Technical specifications:- 

  • Shell – 3 Layer Fabric
  • Adjustable Grown On Hood
  • 3 Zip Pockets with Water Resistant Zips
  • Water Resistant Zip at Centre Front Opening
  • Hem Drawcord with Side Adjustment
  • Form Cut Rubber Cuff Tab
  • Shell: 100% Polyester/ TPU
  • Membrane/ 100% Polyester
  • Waterproof 10,000mm
  • Breathable 3000g/m2/24hrs
  • Windproof
  • Taped Seams

Though I loved this jacket, upon the 3rd day of use, the inside started to peel away at the waterproofed seams. Since it’s still new, I am going to ask for an exchange. Coupled with the Trespass Wendy jacket as a midlayer, it provided me with enough warmth but due to a switch of bags for the journey, I didn’t get to wear this in Yading & wore the less effective Karrimor 3in1 parka instead. Naturally, I froze & almost passed out.

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Leong took a picture of me taking a picture of something! In my Trespass Balbi jacket.

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Standing atop a pile of earth at the edge of the ravine, we were in Yunnan, China. I was covered in my Buff™ balaclava & was wearing Animal Ski Pants!

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Trespass Wendy jacket – the soft shell fleece midlayer I wore in China. 

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Lafuma LD Donegal CLIMACTIVE® Jacket i

This is one of my favourite all-year round jacket. The lightest of them all, this pink jacket packs a hood in the collar & it’s great to ward off the rain on your photo walkabouts. I often wear it when I have my dinner outdoors at Chinese restaurants to repel wind. Did I mention that I have no tolerance to cold? As soon as the temperature dips to 24? or less, I will start to feel uncomfortable.

Technical specifications:-

  • 100% POLYESTER
  • 3 in 1 protective jacket with removable fleece
  • Structured Twill-effect fabric
  • Attached hood which stows inside collar
  • 1 zippered chest pocket with invisible zip
  • 2 zippered hand warmer pockets
  • Adjustable hem with elasticated drawcord and toggles
  • Velcro tab adjustment at wrist.
  • 2 zippered hand warmer pockets.
  • Seam sealed.

This Lafuma jacket can be found at Lafuma Bangsar. I believe there are men’s versions as well & certainly not pink in colour. ?

My fascination with pink has to do with being female. I can be a typical female when it comes to colour choices but for practicality sake, no one would want to steal ‘pink.’ This is my second pink jacket, the first being the Animal Kapelle Ski jacket.

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The Animal Kapelle is a soft shell fleeced jacket that works great in the cinema! I haven’t actually brought this on my expeditions yet to test the warmth rating & I should do so.

Technical specifications:-

  • Anitex Technical Fabric
  • Softshell Fabric With DWR
  • Grown On Adjustable Hood
  • Mesh Lined Pockets For Extra Venting
  • Cuff Adjusters
  • Inverted Zips And External Taping Detail
  • One Handed Adjusters At Hem
  • Waterproof: 8000mm
  • MVP: 10,000g/m2/24hr

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My latest haulage is the Trespass JADA Women’s Waterproof Jacket. Similar to the Animal Amaya, the JADA jacket is the ultimate outdoor piece of kit. The Tres-Tex membrane is made with 3 layers – outer shell, membrane and inner shell- which are laminated together. High performance but lightweight, the thing I like about this jacket apart from its high visibility is the detachable hood. The highest waterproof-rated material at 15,000mm & I would really like to put it to a test in the harsh conditions of some snowy mountainous region somewhere or the jungle! I wanted to a more neutral colour but it only comes in Pink, Black or Turquoise which I already have. I never liked black. My Jada arrived in the mail yesterday!

Technical specifications:-

  • Shell – 3 Layer Fabric
  • Ventilation Zips
  • Adjustable Zip Off Hood
  • 3 Water Repellent Zip Pockets
  • 1 Sleeve Zip Pocket
  • Hem Drawcord with Side Adjuster
  • Flat Cuff with Velcro Tab
  • Back Tail
  • Waterproof 15,000mm
  • Breathable 8000mvp
  • Windproof
  • Taped Seams

All these jackets above are not padded with additional insulation. I thought it should work with base & midlayers & it did plus you can also use it on its own in the tropics to repel rain. Should I come across another highly rated jacket again, I will post it up here but chances are, it would be pink again. 😀

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Donned in my Karrimor Parka, which could only help me withstand down to 7?C. I was freezing throughout until I got my to my main luggage & changed back to my Balbi & Wendy.

Benzilan – The Place I Barely Remember

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Panorama of Benzilan

Hit by an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale, Benzilan in Yunnan, China had temporary make-shift tents as accommodation for the people which lined the street outside our hotel. We got there at night & it was the start of a series of cold nights thereafter. And the hotel doesn’t have any lifts! I felt sorry for the guys who brought unbreakable chunky luggages. Walking up the stairs with such load is enough to bring on back pain. My room that I shared with Miss Lai was on the first floor, not that bad considering that I had brought a convertible Eminent trolley bag which I hauled up like a backpack.

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My camera backpack, the Lowepro Photo Sport 200AW was filled with 80% essentials (survival equipment) & 20% photographic gear. On the first 2 days, people on the trip got a little surprised as to why I had a relatively big pack but only carried a Samsung NX200 wherever I went. I began to whip out things…….Lifestraw™……Lifeventure Shelter 2 Bothy Bag……Gerber multitool…….Sealskinz gloves…..survival kit…….Fenix PD32 light…hiking pole…..travel pillow….thermal blanket……spork…….power bars…..soup packs……purifying tabs……Platypus drinking bag……..alcohol wipes……first aid kit…..Garmin 76CSX…..batteries….. I explained to them that survival was my priority when going out into the wilderness for my adventures. Photos are secondary.

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Nice bag, no?

If I was going to travel for an indefinite period through the cold, mountainous region, I wasn’t going to leave my safety to chance or the tour guide. If we had gotten stranded for whatever reason, at least we would have purified & filtered water to drink. I’ve never been to China before & didn’t know what to expect except that the people look very similar to me. 😀

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Angela posing.

Sandwiched between the demure Angela & the excitable Leong, their antics drove me to the toilet. I have never laughed this much, all 12 days mind you, at two contrasting individuals trying to take pictures & get along. Leong’s model-opportunisticism, both as the photographer & the one being photographed, was worthy of commend. He took very flattering shots of Angela but Angela felt that he did better with aunties & housewives making them look like stars. So the hammering begun. Leong was untameable. He went after cows, goats, yaks, whatever that moved……even other tourists, to get his portraits. He even managed to herd a bull back across the bridge over a torrential river! In witnessing such charismatic flaunts, I decided to document him. I don’t remember much about Benzilan or the journey thereafter except that I was always in stitches as the taunts & threats were continually thrown at Leong by Angela, should he not succeed at taking flattering shots of her again. Leong took his task seriously & clicked furiously to get that right shot afterwards!

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Feeling the pressure…..Leong has to perform, or else…..

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Leong succeeded to ask Alex to photograph him. Alex is a hotshot photographer!

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He got Uncle Nigel to take a shot of him too! How does he do it??? 😀
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He would make sounds through the lens hood….

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And the only time we stopped laughing was when he was deep in slumber…..

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I took him taking me.

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Benzilan was beautiful but I can only remember how much those two amigos made me laugh.

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Walking across the suspended bridge.

Arriving in Kunming, Dali & Erhai Village, China in 24hours

As far as my eyes could see out of the little pane on my window seat, we were descending into a mountainous region. Whatever I’ve seen in paintings of old China plastered on the wall of coffeeshops as I was growing up actually reflected what was before me. Landing in Kunming, Yunnan, China, my 12 day trip began. The superfluous road journey was enough to set my hip off if it weren’t for the BackJoy Posture+ seat that I had lugged along. Absolutely necessary for long car rides. Each day, we travelled between 150 – 350km, stopping along the way for scenic spots & photo opportunity. Given the chance, I would have loved to stay put longer in one place to experience the culture & life of the people.

Our first stop was at ErHai Fishing Village, a lake that the Chinese term as the sea for the never-ending sight of the horizon. Not getting much sleep from the night before when we arrived at The Ancient City of Dali (Dali Gusheng), I woke up to a temperatures too low for my liking. A cotton-loving girl donned in Uniqlo HeatTech, fleece & technical jacket is hardly anything to marvel at. I saved my waterproof ski pants for the coldest sector of my journey…….Yading, in Sichuan near the Himalayas.

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At dawn, these boats are parked by the lakeside.

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Boats parked.

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Fisherfolks row out to haul in the catch.

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Wheat clusters left by the road.

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Mode of transport for the village folks.

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Taking out the vermicelli noodles at the factory.

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Noodles hanging out to dry.

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Garbed in balaclava, beanie & hooded jacket.

This was our first stop on our long & arduous journey to Yading Nature Reserve. On the bus, there were 12 other photographers & an MPV with 6 people plus the driver. Travelling 350km upon arrival in the evening was anything but nice. The fun only began on the 3rd day when I was accosted by Leong Taoping (Long Bean Army as I called him) and the demure but bean-bashing, Angela.