Part 6 #EBC2107-Leaving Namche and heading to Tengboche

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the previous posts you can access them at #EBC2017


March 23. Today we left Namche after we spent two days here for acclimatization. After my hyperthermia/dehydration episode two days ago, I felt that this rest period came at the right time. I spent the past two days resting, but also walking around Namche to purchase some supplies for the journey ahead—mainly protein bars, rehydration powder solution, and cash from the ATM.

Namche Bazaar streets
Namche Bazaar streets

The day started very well for me. I slept for almost 10 hours and felt rested and ready to start the trek to Tengboche; a town located at 3,900 meters above sea level and situated around a 5-hour walk from Namche (roughly 15km). Today’s trek was divided into two sections: the first section—which was roughly about a 3.5 hours walk—was mainly an ascent spread over a long distance. The second section—which was roughly about a 1.5 hours climb—was a bit more challenging and included a steep ascent toward Tengboche.

I felt my breathing was a bit better today, something I linked to the two acclimatization days in Namche. It felt good, psychologically, to get some of my breathing back—though I still felt out of shape whenever we needed to climb some stairs, so I knew I wasn’t off the hook yet. The first part of the journey to Tengboche revealed a lot of Nepal’s beauty. We passed by beautiful valleys covered with trees, ice, beautiful brown mountains, and magnificent blue river running in between. Yaks were passing us all the time, adding drama to the entire trek. I kept walking with a smile on my face, and felt good generally with the way I was handling my breathing, steps, speed, and most importantly my spirit. As we crossed through different dust and rocks covered paths, I could see Mt. Everest in the distance. It has become my compass, and my motivator to keep walking even though my mind and body challenged this decision.

Walking to Tengboche - Yaks passing us
Walking to Tengboche – Yaks passing us

The “honeymoon” stage of today’s trek came to an end roughly 3 hours into it. We have reached the last checkpoint before the brutal 1.5 hours (steep) climb to Tengboche began. Since it was the last checkpoint with restaurants, my guide decided to use it as a lunch break. There were dozens of climbers at this checkpoint, all waiting to begin the climb to Tengboche. At this stage of the trek, I realized that having a heavy lunch was not a good idea because it actually slowed me down in previous cases, as my body was using the blood to digest the food as opposed to using the blood to provide oxygen to my muscles. I ended having a bowl of lentil soup and a Cliff Bar. I knew I’d get hungry during the climb, but I only used it as a motivator to order a big dish of egg-fried-rice in Tengboche—yes, I know, it is the little things that counted in this trip :).

Nepal - Trekking to Tengboch. Mt. Everest ahead.
Nepal – Trekking to Tengboch. Mt. Everest ahead.

The moment I took the first step I knew that the next 1.5 hour climb was going to be tough. The climb was so steep that at one point I almost felt backward by losing my balance. In addition to the “short goals” plan I developed, I realized I also needed to add one more variable to the equation: pacing my breathing. 15 minutes into the climb my mind started to play tricks on me, and I knew that I needed to control it. I focused on very short steps and a very slow walk, and this allowed me to inhale in each step, which gave me a good rhythm. As I was climbing up I could see other climbers struggling as well. Many of them, including myself, were taking many long breaks (5-10 minutes) to catch their breath, but also to give the muscles some rest. At this point, I was climbing at a high altitude, and dehydration became a serious matter that I needed to keep in mind. The terrain itself was very rocky and dusty. Every time I stepped on a rock to bring myself up I felt I was gambling because there was no guarantee that the rock will stay in place. There was no way to predict if the rock will lose its grip and make me fall, or worse, make me twist my ankle. I actually turned this situation into a game by basically guessing if the next rock will stay in place or not. I know it sounds weird, but it really kept my mind busy. After what seemed to me like an eternity, I have finally reached Tengboche. I remember almost kissing the ground when I reached the gates, but not because of tiredness (though I was exhausted), but rather because I was famished!

Entering Tengboche
Entering Tengboche–Mt. Everest straight ahead

Tengboche was quite surreal. Imagine an open vast space the size of two-three football fields with only a few houses around, a big monastery, lots of yaks, and beautiful snowy mountains surrounding the entire area. As I was passing through the gates I could not stop but think about what it takes to live here. On the one hand it felt very peaceful, and on the other hand it felt too isolated. No matter what my thoughts were at that moment one thing was for sure, I really felt at peace at that moment in time. As I was walking toward the T-house we planned to spend the night in, I finally saw it very close to my face—Mt. Everest. It was so close I could almost touch it. I took my bag down, pulled a chair out and sat there for a good 30 minutes looking at it. I was interrupted by the sound of my stomach “screaming” for some food, which I am happy to share I complied. I had a big bowl of egg-fried-rice, and later took a good nap. I needed the rest because tomorrow we were planning to climb to Dingboche, a town situated at 4,500 meters above sea level, and I needed all the energy I could get.

Nepal - Tenboche, Yak Napping
Nepal – Tenboche, Yak Napping

I woke up the next morning around 4:50am because I wanted to take a photo of the sun rising on top of Mt. Everest. I made sure to have my camera and Tripod ready the night before and eagerly waited for the time to go out and set everything in place. It was freezing cold outside (around -12C), and it was difficult for me to set the camera because my fingers started to freeze. I waited until the sunrise time, but unfortunately I didn’t see the effect I expected for. I did manage to take one photo with the moon above one of the mountains, but that was about it. Oh well…

Nepal - Tenboche. Night Photo
Nepal – Tengboche. Night Photo

To be continued…


This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the previous posts you can access them at #EBC2017

Part 5: #EBC2017 – Climbing to Namche Bazaar and Getting Hypothermia

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the posts you can access them at #EBC2017


Disclaimer: I am going to write this post as descriptive as I can, so some sentences may come across as ranting; it is not. I have had my share of sleeping and living in harsh conditions, so I am the opposite of a spoiled person.

March 21, I woke up after sleeping for almost 10 hours. My body was exhausted from yesterday’s trek, so you can certainly say I collapsed on my “bed.” I say “bed” because basically it was a wood board with a thin blanket on it that served as a “mattress.” The night was very cold around -6c degrees. I slept with my clothes on, including my gloves and wool hot, and I still found it hard to control my shaking. The walls in the room were made out of thin wood, and thus the temperature in the room was almost identical to the outside temperature; quite cold. The shower didn’t really work, and hot water wasn’t available—which made brushing my teeth quite uncomfortable (freezing water). Prior to my 10-hour sleep, I managed to rearrange my backpack a bit for better weight distribution. One of the mistakes I made on the first day is that I carried the heavier bag on me instead of giving it to the porter. I now managed to reduce the weight of the backpack from 12.5kg to about 6kg, which made the trekking much more comfortable.

Nepal - Yaks Marching to Namche
Nepal – Yaks Marching to Namche

I was up at 5:00am today. I went to sleep around 19:00, and thus was well rested when I woke up. After washing my face with ice-cold water, and eating a Cliff bar to get my body going, I stepped outside to get some fresh air. Breakfast was scheduled at 7:00am, so I had a few hours to “kill” before I could have my two eggs, potatoes, and two slices of bread (a common breakfast throughout the trek). The view was spectacular! It was cloudy the day before so I couldn’t really see the big icy mountains that revealed themselves in the morning. I stayed outside for almost an hour to watch the sun rising on these big mountains, and felt appreciative for the opportunity to be where I was at that moment.

Shortly after breakfast, we started our trek to Namche Bazaar. I was warned by others that this will be the toughest climb of the entire trek, but nothing really could have prepared me for it. We climbed for almost 1,000 meters—about 6 hours of which ~3 hours of it was straight uphill in one of the most challenging activities I have ever completed in my entire life…but wait, I will get to it.

Coming back to “shortly after breakfast.” Shortly after breakfast we grabbed our gear and headed toward Namche. I felt a bit better walking with my light backpack, and that feeling put me in a better mood. The only thing I was struggling with was the breathing. I was still trying to figure out how to breathe at this altitude, which was very difficult. The best way I can describe it is this: imagine that you’re holding your breath to the maximum of your lungs capability and right when you feel that sharp burning pain in your lungs (before you die from lack of oxygen), you open your mouth to inhale as much oxygen as possible. THAT is the feeling I got every time I tried to walk a bit faster, or if I skipped half a breath. It is a very uncomfortable feeling that takes some time to get used to.

Nepal - Walking to Namche
Nepal – Walking to Namche

The first 3 hours of the trek were not as challenging as the last 3 hours, but were challenging enough for me to struggle with my breathing. We climbed up and down, crossed bridges, and witnessed the most heavenly views I have ever come across! My senses were overwhelmed with the view around me to the point I could barely speak. I kept walking with a big smile on my face, wondering where I was. The “easy” part ended after three hours or so, and I was now facing the toughest part of today’s trek—climbing up to Namche Bazaar.

The second half of the trek started with a steep uphill climb, followed by steep uneven stairs made out of uneven rocks, and continued this way for the next 3 hours or so. Each step was a big lunge climbing uphill that repeated itself thousands of times. Shortly into the climb, I started feeling the mental part taking over my body. I felt out of shape (even though I am not) as breathing at this altitude was something new to me. The trail was relatively busy with climbers, porters, and locals who were all taking the same route to Namche. Being the competitive person that I am, I tried to compete with them by keeping the same pace and soon discovered that it was a crucial mistake as I kept losing, which added to the demoralizing feeling I already struggled with. Clearly, things were not going as I planned, I thought to myself, and it was the first time I actually broke down. I sat down on a big rock facing the valley below in order to recollect my thoughts. Bad thoughts were coming to my mind, anywhere from “what am I doing here?” to “I cannot do this.” I felt frustrated, demoralized, and the thought of quitting made me want to cry (I don’t like quitting). It is at this moment I (re)discovered a new “muscle” I have forgotten I had—the mental muscle.

Nepal - Getting my head straight
Nepal – Getting my head straight

As I was sitting on the big rock facing the green valley below, strong cold wind blowing on my face, I realized that my struggle is not physically but mentally. I needed to come up with a plan to climb this monstrous challenge—a plan I later called “the short goals” plan. It was a simple plan, but it helped me go through the entire journey that was ahead of me. In a nutshell, I set myself short goals as I was climbing up. A short goal was usually a big rock 5 meters ahead of me that I needed to reach. Once I reached that goal, I would pick another short goal. I kept repeating this process hundred of times until I actually reached the final destination for the day. The second part of the plan was never to look forward, or up. Whenever I picked a goal, I put my head down and kept walking until the “goal” crossed my eyes. This is the point when I looked up to pick a new short goal. It was a simple plan, but it helped me keep my focus. It disconnected me from the negative voices inside my head (the “let’s quit this” voices) and helped me organized my mind. I felt at peace after coming up with this plan—though very tired physically— and knew then that I have discovered the secret that will take me all the way to Everest Base Camp.

Nepal - Namche Bazaar
Nepal – Namche Bazaar

By now I have climbed for almost 3 hours. My legs were beyond tired, I was breathing heavily, my eyes were red because of the dried salty sweat, and overall I was completely depleted. When I finally entered the gates of Namche Bazaar, I felt as if I wanted to cry out of joy. I never thought I will reach there, but I did, and it felt super good! When I finally arrived at our hotel (The Nest) and sat down at the table in the dining room, a strange thing happened to me that I have never experienced before. My body has started to shake uncontrollably, and I felt very cold. In addition, my heart rate dropped to about 45 bpm and I felt a bit confused. I knew immediately what was happening and I needed to act fast! I was getting a hypothermia. The temperatures went from hot to cold, and vice versa, during the climb (strong winds will drop the temperature instantly), which encouraged sweating (hence the hypothermia). In addition, I exhausted my body during the climb and forgot to replenish the carbohydrates (glycogen levels) I lost during the activity. My body was getting into a shock, and I needed to act super fast if I wanted to continue my adventure and not be flown back to Kathmandu in a helicopter.

Nepal - Namche Bazaar Airfield
Nepal – Namche Bazaar Airfield

Shivering, weak, and disoriented, I immediately went back to my room and grabbed two Cliff bars which I shoved down my throat in seconds. I then took off my clothes and got into a very hot shower, followed by wearing all the hot clothes I could possibly wear. I went back to the dining room and ordered a big bowl of soup and some hot tea, and that seemed to help. My heart rate slowly climbed up to about 65 bpm, and the shaking slowly started to fade away. I was in the safe zone again and seemed to overcome this awful and scary experience. I kept sitting in the dining room for another two hours or so until I went back to my room and fell asleep for about 12 hours. I was tired after the long climb and the minor shock my body has gone through, so I think sleeping was the only thing my body could think of. I never slept 12 hours in my entire life, so that was a strange feeling in itself.

Nepal - Namche Bazaar Sunrise
Nepal – Namche Bazaar Sunrise

We stayed in Namche Bazaar for two days (acclimatization day), which was great because I needed the rest. On the second day, we climbed to Hotel Everest View to view Mt. Everest for the first time, and also prepared ourselves to the next part of the trip: climbing to Tengboche.

To be continued…


This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the posts you can access them at #EBC2017

Part 4: #EBC2017 – Flying to Lukla, and Walking to Phakding

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the posts you can access them at #EBC2017

March 20, I woke up at 3:00am. I couldn’t sleep much as I was a bit excited, or maybe it was simply because sleeping at high altitudes makes you stay up if you’re a “sea-level boy” like I am. I like to chop it up to simply being excited, because I was. My backpack was ready from the night before. I sat in my room eating a Cliff Bar I brought with me (one of many) and thought about the day. It was 5:00am when I realized I was daydreaming for the past two hours. I grabbed my backpack and started walking toward the car. It was very dark, and my biggest concern was falling and injuring myself before I even started my trek—yeah, that would suck.

The drive to the airport was less chaotic at 5:00am. There were a few cars on the road, but nothing that caused traffic like in the first day. When we arrived at the airport, there were already about 100-200 people waiting outside. They haven’t opened the gates yet (the gate to enter the airport, that is), so we all stood outside with our backpacks. It was a funny moment because you could not stop but notice how every person who stood there was checking the gear of the person who stood next to them (including me!). Things like the type of shoes, the type of pants, the type of pole, everything! I found it amusing.

Our flight was scheduled to leave to Lukla at 6:00am, and at 5:35am we were still waiting outside the airport. When I looked at my guide to ask him the obvious question (i.e., are we going to miss our flight?), he looked at me with an amused face and told me “welcome to Kathmandu.” At 5:45am the gates opened, and 200 or so people were taking small steps with heavy backpacks and big boots toward the security checkpoint—one Xray machine, two guards, and one metal detector. It was painfully slow. The security involved lots of padding and more padding. The funny part is that we were sitting at the gate by 5:55am, so somehow the system works. When we finally reached the gate we found out that due to bad weather conditions all flights to Lukla were being delayed.

At 10:30am we finally had a short window of 30 minutes to quickly take off and get to Lukla. Things happened very quickly at this point. We were literally pushed into our seats on a small jet-propelled plane, and before we knew what was happening we were in the air. The flight itself was ok until we got closer to Lukla, which is when the bad weather kicked in. The turbulence was very strong, and the plane was shaking side to side, up and down, and every moment felt like our last. On top it, flying close to the mountains didn’t help the anxiety level. Eventually, I decided to keep my eyes at the pilot. I thought to myself that if he gets nervous, then so should I. Our pilot was as relaxed as a day in the beach, so I thought to myself that things will be just fine.

Lukla Airport
Lukla Airport
Lukla Airport
Lukla Airport

We finally landed and headed toward baggage-claim, which was a small room outside where our planned parked. I was introduced to my porter, and we started our trek toward a town called Phakding. At this point, we were already at 2,800 meters above sea-level, and it is at this point where I realized that breathing is going to be a problem. I lived at sea-level my entire life, so 2,800 meters above sea-level was a bit of a shock to my system. I felt out of breath five minutes into our walk. The walk to Phakding was quite challenging, though it was considered to be the easiest part of the Trek. We were actually going downhill from 2,800 meters above sea-level to 2,600 meters above sea-level, but the lack of oxygen really played a big role in how I felt. My muscles were not as responsive, and every step I made left me out of breath. It planted a lot of doubts in my mind, but being the competitive person I am I was not going to give up so quickly.

When I finally reached the hotel in Phakding I felt a bit shaky and tired. I haven’t eaten much since the morning, and due to the strenuous challenge I went through during the three-hour walk from Lukla, my body was at the point of collapsing (low glycogen levels, hunger, high altitude, burning about 3,500 calories). Bad thoughts were coming to my head as I sat in the dining room hoping to grab something real quick to eat. I had some soup and tea, which wasn’t enough, but I didn’t realize I could have ordered some “real” food such as rice, eggs, etc. I also had some rehydration solution in my bag, so I mixed it with my water, had another Cliff Bar and some nuts and shortly after I started feeling better. The room I stayed in was moldy and had no lights (electricity comes much later in the day). A shower was not an option either. My feet were killing me from the walk, so I changed my shoes and put my Birkenstocks on; it felt really good! Later that night I had a proper meal and felt much better than I felt a few hours earlier.

The walk to Phakding was the easiest part of the trek, but it felt the hardest because I didn’t know what to expect. It messed me up psychologically, but little did I know that the next day is going to be the hardest challenge I have ever taken in my entire life, and it will also be the day that will build or destroy me!

To be continued…

Part 3: #EBC2017 – Everest Basecamp Trek – Day 1 in Kathmandu

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the posts you can access them at #EBC2017

 March 19, I landed in Kathmandu after a “short” flight of 4 hours and 30 minutes from Singapore. It was a direct flight on a small 737-800 plane packed with passengers. I sat next to a nice lady who works for the Red-Cross organization and was on a mission in Kathmandu. It was her first time in Kathmandu, and so was mine, so we started chatting a bit. I told her about my Everest Base Camp (EBC) adventure, and she seemed fascinated by the idea. We part ways once we landed, and my EBC experience has begun.

Landing in Kathmandu was a bit, hmm, how should I put it, surreal. I had to obtain my entry visa at the airport and the process itself was a bit confusing and not at all self-explanatory, as I needed to go from one station to another until I finally managed to get my Visa. It took me about 35 minutes before I managed to get the process right, and in all this time I was thinking about my backpack. 35 minutes is a long time, and I was sure someone has already snatched my backpack and walked away with it. Immediately after I (finally) had my passport stamped I ran to baggage claim area to pick up my backpack, only to find out a jammed-packed area with hundreds of people waiting. There were no visible signs to direct me to the right conveyor, so I simply tried to find people I recognized from the flight. It took more than 60 minutes for my bag to come out, but I was happy it did.

Kathmandu
Kathmandu
I stepped out of the airport to look for my driver, and it is at this moment when reality hit me. There were hundreds of people standing outside–a lot of them were drivers waiting to pick up passengers–and the state of chaos overwhelmed my senses. In addition, dozens of people were hovering around asking to help with my bags; I refused to all of them as crime in Kathmandu (stealing your bag, snatching your wallet, etc) is quite common. I finally found my driver (I’m not sure how), and he escorted me to an old Toyota jeep which he used to transport me to the hotel. Driving in Kathmandu has no rules. There are no traffic lights, no (modern) traffic laws, no signs, but still, the system works. It was the most anxiety-causing (and fun!) drive I have ever taken. As we were driving through the streets of Kathmandu I finally was able to witness the level of poverty. People sleeping on the streets, beggars strolling the streets asking for money, poor roads infrastructure, and over-floating sewage running through the streets. (Somehow it reminded me of the awesome work our members at Impact Hub are doing around the globe to solve these type of problems….but that it is a story for a different post :).)
Kathmandu
Kathmandu
Kathmandu
Kathmandu

The original plan was to start the EBC Trek on March 22, but when I reached the hotel I was informed by the trekking company that we will be leaving on March 20, which basically was in 12 or so hours! It was exciting and scary at the same time because I thought I will have two days to prepare myself mentally; I didn’t, and it was ok. I was ready to go. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6am, and we needed to leave the hotel at 5am in order to get to the airport. I was up by 3:00am that morning. I wanted to make sure I get myself prepared mentally for what’s to come only to realize that nothing could have prepared me for the next 24 hours….

To be continued….

Part 2: #EBC2017 Everest Base Camp – The day before

Tomorrow I will be heading to Everest Base Camp (EBC), and I can start feeling the adrenalin taking over me, and with it the doubts, and fears (read the first blog post here). I find the most challenging part of trekking to EBC is the mental part. On the one hand it is an exciting journey that passes through scenic valleys, rivers, and breathtaking mountains, and on the other hand, it is–physiologically speaking– the most challenging journey I have ever taken (operating your body at 4,500-5,800 meters above sea-level is not an easy task). As I write this blog post, doubts are coming to my mind to ask the obvious question: “why go on this journey?” The answer to this question is so simple that it makes me sit back and smile: because I need it. Because I look at it as a detox to the negativity that surrounds us. Because I look at it as a way to look deep into myself to ask the toughest questions. Because I look at it as a way to reconnect with my mind, my soul, my own self.

In the past year, I have watched dozens of YouTube videos of people who recorded their journey to EBC. I have watched these videos so many times that I feel I know the people who work at the Teahouse, lodges, restaurants, etc. I know it sounds funny, but I did watch it over and over again not just on YouTube, but also in my head. I envisioned myself walking these trails and bridges over and over again in my head. It was my way to prepare myself mentally for the unknown. I want to say I succeeded, but I won’t know until I come back.

In terms of packing, I tried to keep my bags to a minimum. I spent a lot of money on special clothes and other equipment, but from the extensive readings I have done on the topic of packing, one theme stood up: keep it light, which I did. I have two Osprey bags with me; an 85L (not fully packed)) and a 46L. Oddly enough, I will be using the 85L to carry with me and give the 46L to the porter. Why? I like the challenge :). Seriously, though, I like the 85L because it feels more comfortable to carry on large distances, and strenuous climbs.

The one thing that keeps my weight a bit heavy, however, are the 36 Clif-Bars I am carrying with me. Some of the restaurants (especially closer to EBC) serve junk food like fries, which I am not sure my body will agree with (fuel wise). I prefer the “healthier” version of food for this climb. Plus, I don’t normally eat Clif-Bars, so this is an excuse for me to do so. :).

I am also carrying some photography equipment that adds to the total weight: a tripod, a DSLR, a Heavy lens, GoPro, batteries, cards, cables, etc. All this equipment adds weight, but it is not something you can leave behind. I actually look forward to taking photos at nights (hence the tripod), as nights in the Himalayas are mesmerising (see below)

Everest at night
Everest at night
Everest at night
Everest at night

Overall I am super excited and very much look forward to getting there. I think all the fears and doubts will fade once I am there, but hopefully not completely as fear is also a good thing because it keeps you alert, something that you want to have in an unforgiven environment.

Namaste 😃

Part 1: #EBC2017 Heading to Mount Everest Basecamp

There are so many exciting changes happening in 2017, which I will cover in a different post. This one, though not a change per se, is an exciting journey I plan to embark on next week. I will be heading to Kathmandu to start an exciting journey to Mount Everest Basecamp. It is an eye-opening trek that goes through one of the world’s most scenic places, the Himalayas. It is a bucket list item I have been wanting to pursue in the past year, and I am very happy I finally made it happen.

Everest Bascamp
Everest Basecamp

 

My journey will begin in Kathmandu, where I will arrive on Sunday afternoon (March 19, 2017). Kathmandu is located 1,300 meters above sea level. I will have a driver waiting for me at the airport to pick me up. I will use the next two days to prepare for my trek, and also enjoy Kathmandu a bit before my journey begins. There are many things to do in this beautiful city, a city of monuments, temples, and monasteries such as Durbar Square, Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swoyambhunath, Changu Narayan, Budhhanilkantha and many others.

On the third day, I will be heading to Lukla Airport, which is known as the world’s extreme and most dangerous airport (I attached a video to show you what I mean). It is dangerous because it located on a mountain, and you get only one chance to land (or crash). I trust we are going to be ok, because these pilots are doing these flights hundreds of times during the year (🤞🏼). Lukla is located at 2,652 meters above sea-level, and it is the point where I start my trek to Mount Everest Basecamp. My first part of the trek will take about 3-4 hours walk toward Phakding. Phakding is the first view point of Kongde Ri mountain range, plus a 500-year-old Pemacholing Monastery.  On my way to Phakding, I will walk by beautiful stone walls, painted and non-painted mani stones,  get a view of Kusum Khangkaru mountain, and finally reach Phakding.

After a day of rest, I will be climbing up to the famous Namche Bazar, which is located at an altitude of 3,440 meters. I will be passing by Rimshung Monastery and Uchhecholing Monastery and will climb up along the trail and visit Sagarmatha National Park. Moving forward, I will cross Larbha Dobhan and will witness the first view of Mount Everest (in the far distance).

Continue climbing up the path, I will finally reach Namche Bazar–Namche Bazar is the main gateway to Everest. It will take me about 5-6 hours to climb to this location. I will use this location as my day-off-point as I need enough time for acclimatization. Depending on how I feel, I might take a hike to the famous Everest View Hotel– around 3 hours– to catch glimpses of Mt. Everest.

After one acclimatization day, it is time to hit the road again. On this day I will be leaving Namche Bazar and head toward Tengboche, which is located at 3,870 meters above sea-level. It should take me around 5-6- hours to walk there. Heading towards Tengboche from Namche, the first view of Ama Dablam, Lhotse Shar, Taboche, Kangtega, and Thamserku is revealed.  Tengboche is famous for the Buddhist Monastery, so I will make sure to visit and explore the monastery.

After a night rest, I will be heading toward Dingboche, which is located at 4,360 meters above sea-level. It should take me about 5-6 hour of climb to get to Dingboche, and I plan to take it as easy as possible because of the altitude. Ascending along the stone steps, I expect to see the National Park Head Office as we pass by Deboche. Following up the path, I will reach Pangboche where a religious place called Pangboche Gompa exists. Walking over some flat trails, surpassing tea shops, I will arrive at Dingboche. Yay!

Dingboche will also be my second acclimatization point, plus the last leg of the journey. I might decide to use this day to explore the areas around. A trek to Chhukung that takes around 3 to 4 hours can be taken (hmm 🤔). Walking towards the east, within Imja Tsha valley, the path leads to Chukkung. I might experience thin air here as the altitude increaes, so I should be careful. At Chhukung, there are few teahouses where I can have a superb view of the snow-capped peaks and glaciers.

At this time I should be at day 9 of my trek, and it is time to take my journey toward Lobuche, which is located at 4,940 meters above sea-level. It should take about 5-6 hours to climb. Beginning from Dingboche, I will head towards Lobuche walking over the mani stones. Taking gradual steps, I will follow the trail of Three High Passes Trek. The trek is quite strenuous as we need to cross Kongma La Pass that resides at an altitude of 5535 meters above sea-level. Moving forward, passing by the High camp, I reach Lobuche where I will stay overnight.

If all goes well, today should be an exciting day. We will be heading from Lobuche to Gorakshep to Everest Basecamp, and back to Gorakshep. We will be climbing to 5,364 meters above sea-level, and expect to walk up the hill for 8-9 hours. Phew! Climbing high, I follow Everest Base Camp Trek trail, and come across Pyramid, Lobuche pass at 5110m, and Gorakshep Tsho Lake at Gorakshep. I will have lunch at Gorakshep and step up, passing by Camp and Pumori B.C., I reach Everest Base Camp (5364 meters above sea-level). From here I come back to Gorakshep for an overnight stay.

After a good night sleep (I should be exhausted), I will use this day to explore Kala Patter. In order to snap in the breathtaking morning view, the sun rays over the snow capped Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and others, I will walk towards Kala Patthar at an altitude of 5550 meteres above sea-level. From Kala Patthar, I descend towards Dingboche via Lobuche and finally stay at Pheriche. This should take around 8-9 hours walk, so I better have a good night sleep and some calories in me :).

My Trek should becoming to an end at this point. I will be heading from Pheriche back to Namche Bazar. As I make my way down to Namche Bazaar, the trail drops downhill to Pangboche village which further drops to the riverside where I will be crossing the bridge over Imja Khola the trail hikes up to Tengboche. From Tengboche, a steep descent takes me to the Dudh Koshi River, where I cross the first bridge over the Dudh Koshi River in Phunki Tenga.  I then pass the village of Tashinga, Sanasa and finally reach Kyangjuma and from here to Namche Bazaar. I will spend the night in Namche Bazaar, where I will (finally) enjoy a hot shower and loosen up my muscles (there is no way I am doing Crossfit during these two weeks 😂). This part of the trek should take me around 8-9 hours to complete.

It is early in the morning, and I am about to embark on the last stretch of the trek, trekking back to Lukla—about 6-7 hours trek. I continue downhill from Namche toward again the second bridge across the Dudh Koshi River near the meeting point of Bhote Koshi and Dudh Koshi rivers. Then I walk towards Monjo, Phakding. I will stop at Phakding for lunch and soon after continue the trail that leads me to Lukla. This is the last day of the trek. The night will be spent at a lodge in Lukla before flying back to Kathmandu.

I look forward to sharing my memories with you when I get back from Nepal.

Namaste 😃

 

 

Hotel Review: Mondrian Suites – Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

I realised that when you get to travel to the same city in high frequency over the course of one year, it helps to have a place that makes you feel comfortable. Comfort, to me, is defined not only by the quality of the mattress, but also by the service, location, staff, and room-amenities. As I began to travel so frequently since I started working for Impact Hub Co., I realised that I needed more than just a bed; I needed a place that can somehow mimic a home-like environment.

Normally when I travel it is usually for a period of two-three weeks, so for me it is crucial that the place offers more than just a bed and a desk. It needs to provide a little living room, a kitchenette, a comfortable shower, and of course a good mattress. Most hotels don’t offer this entire list, but the Mondrian Suites in Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin did, and then some. I promised myself to write a bit about my experience with them, so here we are : )

Mondrian Suites - Entrance
Mondrian Suites – Entrance

Service

As I mentioned above, I get to travel a lot during the course of the year, and if there is one thing that gets to me every single time I check-in to hotels is the hour. Always at 3pm, and always with no exceptions. It can make you life hell if, for instance, your 22-hour flight lands at 6am and your first meeting starts at 11am. This same exact scenario happened to me on my last visit, and to my surprise when I arrived to the Mondrian Suites reception area at 7:30am, I was able to check-in immediately! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hug the receptionist at this point, or just stand on the table to scream “YES!”

In any case, this was a welcome change from all the other hotels I stayed in Berlin in the past. I actually managed to take a long hot shower, unpacked my suitcase, and get a set of fresh cloths on me.

Mondrian Suites - Reception area
Mondrian Suites – Reception area

Room

The room was everything I expected it to be (from the website’s description). It had a nice kitchenette with a small fridge, a microwave, a small electric stove, a sink, plates, utensils, pots, and a small dining table. It also offered a nice small living-room where you can use to sit down to read the newspaper, check your emails, or simply get your feet up after a long day and relax. Most rooms (if not all) come with a nice small balcony. I personally didn’t use it, but if you are a smoker (I’m not), this will be your place of sanctuary. The showroom was spacious, and nice. The shower-head had great water pressure, and the towels felt soft and fluffy. The bed (oh the bed) was very comfortable. I suffer from back problems ever since my military days, so I’m very sensitive to bad mattresses. I must admit that I actually slept like a baby on their mattress, which can also be the fact I was dead tired from all the long meetings : ).

 

Mondrian Suites - Livingroom
Mondrian Suites – Livingroom
Mondrian Suites - Balcony
Mondrian Suites – Balcony

 

Location

I’m not a big fan of big tourist locations. What I liked about the Mondrian Suites location is the fact that it was not in the heart of tourist-traffic, but close enough that you can walk to it (if needed). In addition, if you walk two blocks up Markgrafenstrasse, you will find excellent (semi hidden) restaurants. One in particular, entrecôte, left a good memory in my taste buds. Lastly, there is a big supermarket located right across the hotel, which is great because you get to stock up your fridge with healthy food (for long stays).

Staff

The staff was very helpful, and polite. Very young, and always willing to help with anything. I like it when the person helping you doesn’t try to be pretentious.

Overall, I think I found the hotel I’ll stay in on my next business trips to Berlin. It simply offers everything I need.

Business Trip to Berlin And Expending the MARCOM Team 

Visting Berlin had a different flavour to it this time. It involved not only closing Q1 and planning our next quarter, but also welcoming two new team members to the MARCOM team—Whitney and Anja— and introducing our new Finance and Operations Lead (CFO).

The first part of the trip was quite intense. We’ve gone through the numbers of our first quarter— all were positive, and shown great growth— and we also planned our next quarter, and had a chance to interact with our Board members—mainly about our Unlikely Allies event in Seattle that will take place at the beginning of Q3 2016. The meetings at this level are quite intense, and require a lot of focus. I can honestly say that by the time we reached day three, my energy levels plummeted to pretty much zombie level. Somehow I made it through, so I am happy. :).

What I enjoy most about these meetings are the people. It is very different than my last position, when meetings were dominated by one dogmatic view, and ideas were not floating in a positive way. I find this type of approach to be poisoning not only on a productivity level, but also on a personal level; it simply shuts you down. In any case, this post is not about ranting :).

Impact Hub Team
A good dinner after a long day

After a week or so in Berlin, I managed to take a few days off to go see my family and friends in Israel. The flight from Berlin to TLV is quite short, so it made sense to me to catch an overnight flight (literally :-/) to go spend a few days with them. Seeing my family is always great, no matter how short the trip is. I managed to see all of my siblings, and some of my cousins and uncles too (we’re very much a middle eastern family when it comes to family; we stay very close).

The highlight of my trip, however, was meeting with my 9th grade teacher, Orly. This person has changed my life back when I was 15 year old by helping me believe in my abilities, and in myself. I had quite a tough time in Grade and Junior schools, and I was very much close to being “kicked out” of the school-system because the teachers thought I wasn’t good enough to learn anything. This teacher, Orly, saw my potential and managed to guide me—in a very socratic way, I must say—until I was able to find the true me. It took me 22 years to realise this, and I’ve been searching for this teacher’s address for the past three years so I can thank her personally. This year I managed to get a hold of her phone number, and planned a meeting with her in a nice cafe in Rehovot. It was an emotional meeting for both of us. She was very touched by what I had to say, and for me it marked the end of a long journey.

I also managed to meet some good old friends from my childhood (Boaz, Tal, Maya, Uri), so that was nice as well. It is always nice to catch up, and witness the changes that time brings on all of us.

The last stretch of the three-week-business-trip also involved welcoming two new members to the MARCOM team. I know I promised to write a post about “how to build your marketing team,” but I honestly did not have time yet. The good news, however, is that I already started the first draft.

Back to the new team members. Yes, the last stretch of the trip was quite intense as well. Making sure to go over every piece of the MARCOM funnel is not an easy task, and involved a lot of meetings and talking. Having said that, it does make things simpler when you do it with smart people, and these two new members certainly fit this category.

Impact Hub Team
The MARCOM team is growing

Overall I had a good time, but I must say that three weeks is a long time to be traveling. I can take a week, or maybe 10 days, so I’m hoping that next trip will be much shorter.

The Dark Side of Street Photography If You Are an Introvert 

Not too long ago—when I first started my photography journey in 2012—I needed to decide what areas of photography I’ll enjoy exploring the most. Is it landscaping? Is it portraits? Or maybe architecture? After experimenting with various photography fields, my search led me to street photography, and people (not necessary portraits, but more like taking photos of people at their natural environment).

Street Queen - New York City
Street Queen – New York City

For an introvert person such as myself, doing street photography can be quite challenging. Unlike other photographers who ask permission to take photos of random people on the street, I find myself paralysed by the thought of asking strangers to take their photo. Two main reasons: 1) I’m quite shy and I don’t like to talk to people that I don’t know that easily (hence an Introvert), and 2) I find that doing so makes the subject conscious about the camera, which takes away the “story” of the photo.

Street Lords - New York City
Street Lords – New York City

During a business trip to Berlin last month, I found some time to explore the city in search for a “subject” that can summarise the vibes I felt in this multicultural German town. I walked for miles across different streets and neighbourhoods to try to capture the ‘magic’ of this city. To me Berlin represents freedom and some sort of cultural euphoria, and I wanted to capture these exact feelings in my lens. As I was walking down Friedrichstrasse, I came across a photographer who was taking photos of a model in the middle of the road. It was such a surreal moment, and I knew that I found my photo. To me the model represented Berlin, and the photographer represented freedom. It was a moment where you simply grab your camera and click what you see. One shot. One photo.

Berlin - Germany
Berlin – Germany

It was a perfect introvert-moment. Nobody knew I was there, and I could simply capture the moment the way I saw it with no interruptions. Little did I know that my worst nightmare as a photographer has just began.

After I took the photo, I kept walking on the street when suddenly I heard someone “talking on the phone” in German a few steps behind me. I ignored it for a while until I actually started to suspect that the person is actually talking to me. I turned my head to the right and to my surprise, the person was not only talking to me, but he was also holding his phone up and taking a video of me!

A bit confused, I smiled and kept walking, hoping for the person to vanish. He did not. In fact, he stepped in front of me—while still videoing the whole thing— and started raising his voice (still in German) and acting aggressively toward me with his body language. I was alarmed, and my surviving-animalistic-instincts were on the highest level. I didn’t understand a word that this bully was saying, which made the scenario even more confusing. I tried to cross the street, but he kept following me. I acted calmed and politely asked him to simply leave me alone; he did not. A group of tourists showed up, and I simply mingled with them until he cursed me and left the area. I kept walking calmly for another mile until I stopped. My heart was beating fast from the rush of adrenaline (I thought I was about to get into a fight), and I was very confused because I tried to understand what in god’s name just happened.

Later in the day it all “made sense” to me. This bully thought I was sneaking up on people to take photos, and he wanted to “teach me” a lesson by taking a video of me and adding to it some aggressiveness. As an introvert, there is nothing worse than someone confronting you this way to ruin your day. I didn’t take a single photo after this incident, and I simply turned around and walked back to the hotel. My photography zen moment was gone.

As a certified Krav Maga martial art fighter, I could have easily taken this person down and break every possible bone in his body, but since I don’t like conflicts I simply chose to walk away, very disturbed from the entire incident. This led me to think about the dark side of street photography: confronting people (bullies) who simply don’t understand that what we photographers do is art. We are not taking a photo of you, rather, we are capturing a moment in time. This moment can be the vibes of a city, an emotion, a state of being, or anything else we find inspiring. We are storytellers, and we use visual to express our words.

Sliding Doors - New York City
Sliding Doors – New York City

I’m hoping this will be the last time I come across this type of an undesirable scenario, but something tells me it won’t.

 

Running: Barefoot vs. Shoes on

I read a lot of articles and books about barefoot running, and how anatomically speaking it is the right thing to do if your goal is to develop a good running technique, as well as keeping your body healthy (i.e., not leaning forward, less stress on the spine, etc). I have been running minimalist for quite some time now—using the New Balance Minimus Zero running shoes—so naturally I thought I was doing it right all these years, until, that is, I came across an article that talked about how running barefoot (or using the Vibram Five Fingers to protect your skin) can improve running performance, especially speed.

The running shoes I’m currently using are so minimalist, that I didn’t think taking them off will do any difference; I was wrong! The experiment I conducted was quite simple: run 1.70’ish mile with and without shoes and measure what happens. The photo below compares the results. I was shocked to see the difference between the two runs! I felt the most natural (i.e., less tired, more loose) running barefoot, and the only reason I had to stop is because I was starting to get blisters on my toes.

Running: Barefoot Vs. Shoes on
Running: Barefoot Vs. Shoes on

The experience of running barefoot was a bit strange in the beginning. Feeling (literally) the ground under my feet forced me to adjust the way I hit the surface, and with it my running posture. I was “bouncing” more and I felt the running-power was coming from my feet. I also felt ‘lighter’ and faster, which was strange because it was opposite to what I felt five minute prior to it when I was running with the minimalist shoes. I also felt less tired muscles wise. I literally felt I could just keep running all day long, but as I mentioned above the only thing that stopped me were the blisters that started to develop. Overall I felt like a “runner” in the true sense of the word.

In conclusion, if in the past I scoffed at the Vibram Five Fingers shoes (not sure I can call them shoes), now I’m convinced that they are the solution to help improve my running performance. I heard many professional runners raving about these shoes, and now I understand why.

Thoughts From My Last Trip

September was a busy month for me. It started with #INBOUND15 in Boston, followed with meeting my new team in Berlin, followed with a short trip to Zurich to attend the launch party of the new Impact Hub Zurich, and continued with visiting my family in Israel. Three weeks altogether of traveling across three continents.

Since this is my first post in many months, I will get you up to speed with the latest developments. For those of you who missed the news, I am no longer the Impact Hub Singapore’s CMO. I accepted a new position with the global brand, Impact Hub Global, as their new Global Marketing Lead. I still hold a small role with Impact Hub Singapore that involves training the team on hubspot and Inbound Marketing best practices, and, most importantly, to finish the two projects I started when I first joined their team: The Hubbington Post, and the new Website. These two projects are something I initiated and worked on since day one at Impact Hub Singapore, and I’m happy to see it launching soon. Many thanks go out to Alissa Ohl, my colleague, who put so many hours in helping me with these projects. More on this topic in a later post.

My trip started in Boston. I attended the #INBOUND15 conference, and as always it was a well organised event by Hubspot. Over 14,000 people attended the conference, making it one of the most attended marketing conferences in the world. I managed to meet so many great friends there (hello Adelina, Heather, Clara, and Yoav), and also attended some very useful workshops. I particularly enjoyed the “Executive” sessions. I thought they provided the most value to me. All in all, it is a great conference to attend if you’re in the Inbound Marketing field. Definitely worth the price.

#INBOUND15
#INBOUND15
#INBOUND15
#INBOUND15

#INBOUND15 was exciting, no doubt, but the most exciting part of the trip was meeting the Impact Hub Global Team in Berlin. It was my first time in Berlin (and in Germany for that matter), so in addition to meeting new faces, I was — as a food enthusiast and a photographer — excited to explore the German cuisine and to take some photos.

Meeting the team in Berlin exceeded all of my expectations. They are extremely smart, extremely passionate, respectful, easy going, group of people with great attitude toward work, life, and anything Impact.

The meetings were intense. Planning a roadmap and strategising take a lot of brain-power. Our days lasted for about 12+ hours of thinking and rethinking every piece of our strategy. As intense as it was, I actually enjoyed it. I was pleased we managed to go over the entire marketing plan in such a short time, and generally had a smooth onboarding process.

Impact Hub Global
The MARCOM Team
Impact Hub Berlin + Impact Hub Global teams
Impact Hub Berlin + Impact Hub Global teams

Berlin itself is a beautiful city. It hosts plenty of restaurants, nice cafes, old buildings that captured great historical stories over the years (great for photography), and it is very affordable in comparison to other cities in Europe (hello Zurich!). I particularly enjoyed walking at the famous Mauerpark on Sundays. It gathered so many interesting people. The most epic moment at Mauerpark, if I were to choose one, was when I listened to Frank Sinatra’s I Did It My Way song sang by a drunk old German man at the park’s stone amphitheatre Karaoke event (see photo below). He sang it in German! He actually did a good job, despite his struggle to keep himself standing straight.

Mauerpark
Mauerpark – The Stone Amphitheater Karaoke event

After a week or so of intense work (and fun), it was time to head out to Zurich to attend the launch of the new (third space!) Impact Hub Zurich (and of course some more strategic meetings). The new space looked well thought of. It is very specious, has plenty of light, and looks very conducive to do some deep thinking. If you live in Zurich and are looking to join a community of seriously smart people, you ought to check them out. The launch party was very impressive. Close to 1000(!) people showed up to be part of the event. The Impact Hub Zurich team organised a live DJ, live singing/dancing performance, food trucks, drag queens (yes, drag queens!), and lots of beers (it is Europe after all). I had a great time (and laugh) hanging out with these people.

Impact Hub Zurich
Impact Hub Zurich New Space
Impact Hub Zurich Launch Party
Some funny costumes at the party
Impact Hub Zurich Launch Party
And some Drag Queens
Impact Hub Zurich Launch Party
~1000 people showed up!

We returned to Berlin after the short visit to Zurich to continue with our strategic meetings for a few more days before I headed to Israel to visit my family.

My stay in Israel was very short, but I managed to get a lot of things done. One of the events I didn’t expect was to go to a live UEFA Champions League football game. My nephew surprised me with two tickets literally 10 hours before my flight back to Singapore, and I simply couldn’t say no. The most fulfilling event, however, was seeing my parents. It breaks my heart each time I say goodbye to them, and I hope I can make more visits in 2016.

UEFA Champions League game: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Dinamo Kiev
UEFA Champions League game: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Dinamo Kiev

Overall it was a great trip. I have another round of meetings at the end of October, and this time the trip will last five+ weeks. I’ll be in Berlin, Vienna, Princeton NJ (for Thanksgiving), Atlanta GA, and Cambridge MA.

Until then….

 

The One Rule to Keep In Mind When Photographing Fireworks

Yesterday I attempted to photograph the New Year’s fireworks in Singapore. I did my homework, found a good spot on the bridge, and had my finger ready to trigger the shutter. The technical rules are quite straight forward:

  1. Get a DSLR
  2. Must have a (good) tripod
  3. Aperture at f 11-16
  4. Mode = “B” (bulb)
  5. ISO = 100
  6. Shutter speed around 10 seconds (you’ll need to test it yourself)
  7. Get a good location

These are the technical rules, which are quite easy to follow. Now here is the one rule to keep in mind when photographing fireworks: you only have one shot to get a good photo, and it must be at the first round of fireworks. Why? Because when the smoke from the fireworks covers the skyline (skyscrapers, sky, bridges, etc), it will ruin the composition of the photo. After all, fireworks by themselves are just fireworks with no context. However, if you add some familiar landmarks in the background (and sometimes in the foreground as well), you’ll end up with a beautiful photo.

Here are two examples that illustrate what I mean:

First Set of Fireworks

Fireworks Singapore
First set of fireworks without the smoke

In this photo you can clearly see the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background. This gives context to the photo, and allow the viewer to recognize the area.

Third Set Fireworks

Fireworks Singapore
Third set of fireworks – lots of smoke

This photo was taken from the same spot, however, due to the massive amount of smoke from the previous round of fireworks the sky is now full of smoke, which makes the area look like a war zone. The Marina Bay Sands hotel is nowhere to be seen, which takes away the context in the photo.

I hope you keep it in mind next time you photograph fireworks.

Buy nuts in Singapore in Bulk

I’ve been looking for a place to buy nuts and fruits (raisins and dates) in Singapore for some time, and finally I came across a place named Garden Picks that offered great prices, and a vast selection of nuts and fruits. This is all nice and well, but one thing about Singapore that I haven’t gotten used to yet is how behind the country is when it comes to e-commerece. It’s actually quite surprising, to be honest, to see a country that is so advanced in tech, architecture, retail, etc, but still lacks up-to-date e-commerce regulations. This is why I am still a bit skeptical whenever I purchase something on a .sg website. Anyway, I decided to take my risk, and give this website a chance.

Garden Picks
Garden Picks

The process was smooth with no real blockers to slow it down. The package has been delivered by one of the employees that work for the company, which I thought was quite awesome. He actually called me on my cell just to confirm the hour that suits me best to receive the package. How cool is that?!

All the nuts and dates I bought were fresh, and stored in vacuumed bags. I definitely recommend this place if you live in Singapore and are looking to buy nuts in a reasonable price. Check out their website here.

First Two Weeks Working at The @Hubsg (Reflecting)

The Hub Singapore Team
The Hub Singapore Team

Exhilarating. This is how I describe the feeling of working for The Hub Singapore. Frankly speaking, it’s beyond anything I had ever imagined. From the moment you step into the ‘office’ – which, by the way, is a big co-working space in a cafe –  to the moment you leave; from the place, the team, the Hubbers and the community, all exudes energy. And for a good reason too: The Hub Singapore is home to some of the most exciting Startups, people, and community of working individuals in Singapore! We are 500 strong, to be exact, and with plans to grow to a 1,000 by next year.

Prior to joining The Hub Singapore, I was looking for something that would give my hard work a meaning. I was tired of working in closed-minded environments (corporations) and needed a change. Most importantly, though, I needed a challenge! Not surprisingly, Startups was my first choice, but not just any Startup. I didn’t want to work for a tech Startup (unless its aim was to make the world a better place), which tends to focus on making money, since that wasn’t my intention, much less my motivation.

I’d applied to five Startups in Singapore before joining The Hub Singapore, was interviewed by all, and subsequently offered a position by all. Now here is the funny part: The Hub Singapore’s offer was the least appealing in monetary terms, but it was the only offer that gave me goose bumps! After a short conversation with our CEO, Grace Sai, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. When she offered me the position of CMO, I knew that it was time to embark on this challenge and that I was ready to navigate the ship.

What does it mean to be the CMO for a place that has no marketing strategy, per se, and no actual metrics or a marketing structure? Hmm, in one word: Challenging. And it is the challenging part that I liked most about this position. On the one hand, it makes my job much easier because I get to build everything from the ground up. But, on the other hand, it can be overwhelming as f**k because, well, building an entire Inbound marketing funnel is not an easy task when you are low on the most important asset: people. I work with the smartest people in Singapore, but I need more of them! I guess this is where creativity comes in place. And in this case, I’ll need plenty of it.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the concept of closed loop marketing, I don’t know what I would have done. A lot of you have asked me what needs to be done to make it a success story, and my answer is simple: Green is what we have, and red is what we don’t have.  My job is to turn red to green, the kind of challenge that keeps a smile on my face. Only after I have all the balls in place, so to say, I can start thinking about demand generation, lead generation…blah, blah, blah…and ultimately growth.

 

Closed Loop Marketing
Closed Loop Marketing

 

I’m going to conclude this post with a video that gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. I think it summarizes why I wake up with a smile every morning, why I’m happy to do what I do, and why I’m lucky to work with the most amazing team in Singapore.

Here is where I work, and this is what we do:

 

Where Are All the New Photos?

Here is the simple answer to those of you who keep asking me about new photos from Singapore, and if I quit photography: I didn’t quit photography. In fact, I have a nice collection of photos I took in Singapore that I simply can’t wait to migrate to Lightroom. The reason I haven’t done it thus far is not because I’m lazy (you know me better than this), but rather, it’s because my Mac is (almost) on its deathbed. It slows down significantly when I use Lightroom, and I simply don’t have the patience to spend 10 minutes on each photo I edit. In the interim I just keep taking photos to edit later.

What is later?

Later is when I get my new Mac. Hopefully on our next visit to the States (probably around January) I can pick a new modified Mac in one of the Apple stores. Until then I keep it simple, focusing mainly on lightweight applications such as Microsoft Office suite.

So, there you have it, the answer to the photos question.

If you get bored at work and need something to make you smile, visit my new 500px.com page. It’s growing quite fast :).

PS: Shana Tova to all my Jewish friends and family around the globe! :)

Swimming with the Big Sharks

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours rule, where he claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. I don’t have 10,000 hours of practice in photography yet, but I certainly feel that I’m getting closer to my goal of translating a moment into a photo.

I had heard about 500px.com from other photographers in the field, and how the site is geared toward more professional photos. Unlike Flickr, which is a mix between professional photos and your recent family album, 500px.com, it seems, is only for professional photos.This probably explains the option to sell your photography work to anyone on the site, which I think is pretty cool. (This didn’t come as a surprise to me, though, because most of the photography work is absolutely beautiful.)

So, what does it all have to do with me? Continue reading…

I developed my photography skills quite a bit over the past two years or so, and although I don’t get to take as many photos as I would have liked (you know, I also have a ‘real’ job), I certainly feel that I’m starting to set my photography direction, which seems to point toward street photography (mainly people and moments), portraits (when I’m really pushed into it), some Landscapes, and a lot of Black and White style photos. Colors are great, but I always felt that in order to capture a story in a photo, B&W is the only format. I also feel, and this is a topic for an entirely new post, that since the introduction of filters (hello Instagram!) most people have less appreciation to authentic color photos. It seems to me, and I have seen it in some of my work, that if a photo of a sunset doesn’t have a purple sun, pink sky, and green clouds, then the photo is not good.

I joined 500px.com because I felt that I elevated my work high enough to contribute to the community of photographers who share their work on the site, and also, of course, because I wanted to learn from other photographers. My photo-posting strategy is simple: pick the best photos I have, and post one photo per day. I was happy to see that most of the photos I posted received great feedback, such as likes and faves, from members of the community, and also comments that showed a lot of support for my work. Here are two photos that received great feedback:

I think that what I’m mainly happy about the most is after all this time of taking photos, I actually learned a new skill, although I think I’m quite far from completing 10,000 hours of photo shooting, or, which is how I like to call it, 10,000 hours of having fun.

Restaurant Review: Gusto (Singapore)

Gusto is a restaurant located in the heart of Orchard Road, right outside the ion mall, that offers diners modern Italian cuisine with a touch of innovation. The atmosphere in this restaurant is very vibrant, and diners have the option to sit indoors or outdoors and enjoy music as well international soccer on TV screens. What makes the outside sitting area even more pleasant is that it is decorated with lots of trees and flowers, creating a nice ambiance for the diners.

Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)

For appetizers we ordered a dish called the‘bread board’ which comprised of warm, crispy char-grilled bread accompanied by olive oil butter and a kind of crushed raspberry balsamic jam. This combination of dips was delicious and it created a symphony of sweet-and-sour jam with a punchy creamy sweetness of the olive oil butter in our taste buds. It was a great choice!

Bread Board - Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)
Bread Board – Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)

For our main meal we ordered two dishes: Chicken Milanese and the Pair of Mini Burgers. The Chicken Milanese was a boneless chicken thigh dipped in herb and garlic crumb, which was fried and then topped with tomato and mozzarella. It reminded me of a schnitzel, the kind my mom used to cook when I was a child. The little piece I tried left a positive impression in my taste buds, although I thought the amount of cheese was a bit too much.

Chicken Milanese  - Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)
Chicken Milanese – Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)

The Pair of Mini Burgers was an interesting combination of small, tender burger patties topped with scarmorza, fresh tomato, crispy lettuce, and a truffle relish. The burger petties were neatly placed on mini brioche buns and were accommodated by a nice portion of freshly fried french fries, which were very tasty. All these flavors combined very well to create an interesting eating experience. The only two complaints I have is that the petties were a bit on the raw side and the buns were a bit dry. However, this didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the dish.

Pair of Mini Burgers - Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)
Pair of Mini Burgers – Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)

I also ordered, for the first time ever, the infamous Singapore Sling: a Southeast Asian cocktail made with gin, grenadine syrup, angostura bitters, cherry brandy, cointreau and benedictine. It’s considered to be Singapore’s national drink and, as such, it was on my list of cocktails to try for a long time. For a person, like me, who doesn’t drink alcohol, this cocktail can give you an immediate ‘knockout’ feeling, to use a boxing terminology. As refreshing as the drink was – it was fruity and zesty – I could not go beyond a few sips.

Singapore Sling - Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)
Singapore Sling – Gusto Alfresco Restaurant (Singapore)

 

Gusto restaurant was a fair culinary experience. Although it offered some unique menu options, most of the dishes were quite basic and the prices were on the high end.

 (3 stars)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Koh Grill & Sushi Bar (Singapore)

Last night, we decided to revive our Friday Night Sushi tradition. I had recently come across a name of a Sushi restaurant in Singapore called Koh Grill & Sushi Bar, so we decided to go and explore their menu. They had two main dishes that I wanted to try: Shioki Maki and Shioki Maki ‘second generation’; these came highly recommended as signature dishes.

We arrived at the place (located on Orchard Road, not too far from the MRT station) around 9pm and found the place to be packed (see photo below). I thought that this must be a good sign! After about 20-25 minutes of waiting, we finally got our table. It’s very common to share tables in Singapore, so we weren’t surprised when we were seated next to other sharing the same table. In a way, this was interesting, as we got a chance to see what the couples sitting next to us were ordering.

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar
Long lines = good food?

The restaurant had a visual menu, which meant there were more pictures and less explanatory text. Since I knew what I wanted, we took a few more minutes to explore the menu to find what Irm would like. Our waitress was very helpful in guiding us through the menu to find out which dish contained MSG and which didn’t. I say this because most places in Singapore seem to get a bit defensive when we ask the MSG question. Some locals seem not to know what we were talking about, while others seem to copt an unfriendly attitude, so getting someone to help us with this issue (with a smile) was a refreshing change.

Our food arrived on our table after about 10 minutes. The first thing I noticed about my dish was that it was covered with some white sauce, which at first looked like melted cheese. However, it was a hefty amount of a mayonnaise sauce instead. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like creativity in food but in this case I thought the chef went overboard with the sauce. Sushi, in my humble opinion, is about contrasts in flavors: the fish, the rice, the herbs. If the chef decides to load the roll with mayo, s/he de facto cancels all the flavors of the sushi itself. All I could taste while digging through the sauce was mayo. No fish, no rice, just mayo. It’s a shame because the dish in itself was an interesting combination of fish that I would have liked to have tasted in a roll without the sauce. Irm’s dish offered the same disappointing experience.

Irm's Dish
Irm’s Dish
Shioki Maki. Way too much mayo!
Shioki Maki. Way too much mayo!
Shioki Maki second generation
Shioki Maki second generation. Way too much mayo!

Overall, our culinary experience at Koh Grill & Sushi Bar did not impress us. I can’t rank the place since we haven’t explored the rest of the dishes on the menu, but as far as the two signature dishes that we tried, I can’t see what all the fuss is about!

The big highlight of the night, however, was the discovery of a new Cafe: Paris Baguette Cafe. We enjoyed a wonderful slice of cake there, paired with a good cup of Earl Gray tea, which was much needed to calm our stomach after the mayo attack we experienced. It was too late at night to try their vast selection of croissants, but I’m sure we’ll get back there again soon.

Paris Baguette Cafe.
Paris Baguette Cafe. Delicious cake

 

Ginger Tea – Pakistani Style

Today we had the RSIS driver, Karim, take us to the Ministry of Manpower Office (MMO) to get our Employment Cards issued. It was an exciting day because it will open up a lot of doors for us in Singapore, including the privilege to open a bank account and finally set up our mobile phones in Singapore.

We headed out to the MMO around 9:20am, sitting in the back of Karim’s white Hyundai minivan, getting used to the not-so-specious interior compared to minivans in the States. I still get amused at how small everything is compared to what we’re used to in the United States but, for some reason, it doesn’t bother me a bit! In fact, I actually like it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Middle Eastern where everything is also pretty much the same size.

The visit to the MMO took less than 10 minutes, which was a refreshing change from the many weeks it took to get my employment authorization card from the U.S immigration office a few years back. The friendly staff at the MMO took our photos, scanned fingerprints, had us sign a form and, before we knew it, we were in Karim’s white minivan again heading back to NTU campus.

On our way back, Karim looked at us in the rearview mirror and asked if we would like some ginger tea. Well, I thought to myself, I’ve had ginger tea in the States many times and I seem to remember it was good. I smiled back at Karim and told him that I would very much like to try ginger tea here. He smiled at me and, in his heavy Malay accent, turned around and told me that he knows a place that makes the best ginger tea in Singapore! Ah, I thought to myself, I see a culinary adventure coming on.

Before I could complete my thought, Karim stopped the white minivan next to a local hawker. He stepped out of the minivan and left us wondering where we were. I could see Karim talking to one of the merchants, while holding three plastic bags in his right hand. I imagined that the tea would be in a cup, so I thought that maybe he’s just ordering some food to go. He walked back to the car, turned around and said: “Here, the best ginger tea in Singapore!”

IMG_2391

The tea was boiling hot in the bag, but I was eager to try it. It didn’t look like anything I’ve ever tried before, and the thought of drinking a tea with a straw made me a bit hesitant.

Before I could explore my tea in the plastic bag, Karim made it a point to tell us that this tea is a homemade tea, Pakistani style, with all of the ingredients imported from Pakistan. The mere aroma of the spices in the tea made me salivate. My senses were on fire! My mind was trying to keep track of all the different flavors that were running through my tastebuds, failing to categorize them over and over again. It was sweet and milky, with a strong taste of ginger and a dozen of other spices I couldn’t recognize. Every sip brought a different experience to my tastebuds, leaving me baffled and entertained.

At the end of the trip, I realized that I’d never had a real ginger tea in my life and, in fact, judging by this experience, I’ve never really had a real tea before!

 

 

 

Hectic Times

As our U.S chapter closes – marking the beginning of a new exciting chapter – I’m only now starting to realize how hectic the past two weeks have been for us. Between traveling to Atlanta, Boston, packing the content of the house, moving everything out, filling up a mountain of international-shipping paperwork,  thinking about 100 things I need to do and forgetting another 100 that will probably come to my mind after we leave, AND traveling to Canada for 5 days, I think it’s okay to say that I’m past being overwhelmed. The good news is: it’s almost over. Yesterday’s one day trip to Boston/Cambridge was very emotional for us. We always considered MA to be our home, and yesterday’s visit only showed us how much we actually missed this place. We took an 8am JetBlue flight from Newark airport that lasted only 32 minutes (the only way to travel to Boston from NYC, IMHO), and got to spend a few hours in some of the places we love the most. Here are some photos:   We returned home around midnight, only to wake up at 5am to make sure everything is ready for the ‘packers.’ I’m actually not sure how I managed to survive the last few weeks with so much lack of sleep, and so many things to do. I’m glad we picked the Allied service to pack our house; I don’t think I had the mental space to deal with this at this stage in my life. It took the team (of 3) about 5-6 hours to pack the entire house, which is impressive. Today they are coming to take everything away to the storage facility, and then ship everything to Singapore once we get our permanent address over there. Here are some photos: Untitled   What is next? A 5 day trip to Canada, which frankly I look forward to only so I can rest a bit, and forget the fact that in one week we’ll be moving our lives half way across the globe! While in Canada, I’ll finally get to do something I wasn’t able to do for a while: take photos! :). Working out, by the way, hasn’t been the same for the past month or so. I just couldn’t do it for more than twice a week. I’m hoping to get back on schedule after we land in our new home. More thoughts to come when I’m back from Canada….