Friday, June 19, 2020


        COVID-19 put an end to world holiday plans. Everyone stayed home. My pal Lan Boey told me to go watch the movie “Seven Years in Tibet” with a younger Brad Pitt as the protagonist. Hmm … not a bad idea as both Tibet and Brad are pretty agreeable to my palate. The scenes in the movie were reminiscent of our qigong trip to Tibet. Too bad I cannot say the same for Brad, since we have never been formally introduced.

      Fifteen June 2019 began our arduous and grueling ascent to the Roof of the World. I used the word “grueling” not because of any physical activity, but the mental strength required to reach our highest point, Namtso Lake at 4,718 metres (15,479 ft) above sea-level, compared with Malaysia at a mere 150 metres (492 feet, “sup-sup sui” in Cantonese which means no big deal).

Altitude map of all the places visited
   Don’t think our group just packed and flew happily like migrating birds to Tibet. Our laoshi(s) Edwin and Yan Choo trained us rigorously in the Shaolin Walk to strengthen our legs and Shaolin Breathing (lung expansion) to handle the “thin” air at high altitudes. Being anaemic, I diligently practised the Shaolin Walk in my living room at home. Savvy K would go, “Look Daddy, Mummy is doing her Chicken Walk again!”

The departure started with an early alarm at 3.45 am that woke the whole family
and to prepare myself. To be HONEST and I speak ONLY for myself, I was anxious and edgy about going on this trip. This region is the highest plateau in the WORLD with an average elevation of more than 4,500 metres or 14,800 feet. Can I take the really "thin" air? What if I needed oxygen supply? What if I panicked and started hyperventilating? 

All my thoughts were discarded as I met our supportive group and lao shi(s) for our early flight direct to Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Chengdu at 500 m (1,600 ft) was where we started our slow acclimatisation to the higher altitudes. The next day, we flew to Nyinchi (3100 m, 10,200 ft), the gateway to Tibet. Thus, began our unceasing but panoramic bus journey 

on bitumen roads, 
rocky terrains on dirt roads,

up and down mountain ranges, 
into and out of never-ending tunnels over enormous lakes.
 Tibet has beautiful blue skies with "cotton candy" clouds.
 We crossed gushing
 “angry” rivers 
Yan Choo laoshi (first left) who taught us the Shaolin Walk and Breathing.
over 10 days. For this post, I‘ll like to take you to my favourite highlight of the entire trip, the Midui glacier. We had to trek for 1 ½ hours at a high altitude to reach our “prize.” Also, I had always wondered  how a glacier would look like "in person."

         Midui Glacier is located in Bomi county of Nyinchi Prefecture. It is renown as the lowest glacier in the world. 
We started out at Midui village at the foot of the glacier. 
        The Tibetan log houses have courtyards decorated with colourful prayer flags surrounded by "rich" farm land 

and lush quiet meadows, interrupted only by our palpitating hearts and groans.
Some in our group decided to go on horseback (Tan Yoke Hua at 74 years was inspirational to us younger ones), 

but not us. Fourteen of us "diehards" trekked the 2 km trail,
and rested our lungs,
    and trekked up once again
and down countless flights of stone steps.

         I wanted to give up many times. The trek was an uphill task, both metaphorically and literally. The air was "THIN," I was "FAT." Oh Lord, can it get worse? I was wheezing away to Boey, "I can't do it." She kept nudging me to the top, "Come on, rest and breathe, you CAN DO IT." Every time we met any local Chinese descending, we'll ask in Mandarin, "How long more to the top." All gave the same answer, "LITTLE BIT more, "JIA YOU" (add oil in direct translation, but meant as an encouragement, GO FOR IT)."
          OHH ... we later realised ... the China version of "little bit more" is our Malaysian "LONG, LONG way more." We were running out of oil, or rather I was totally out of oil, but I suspect Boey always carries a spare tank!!
 At last, the misty prize from the observatory platform at 2,400 metres, 7,874 feet. 
It was breath-taking. My first-ever glacier. 
Pure white snowy peaks sandwiched by grey-blue mountains rising from a tranquil semi-frozen icy silver glacial lake.
 Mini ice bergs (as it was summer already) climbed up from the pristine waters. Mountains and lakes encircled by coniferous forest. 
 WE DID IT! Time to go CRAZY
 and Crazier with our shifu Edwin (centre), Mun Keong laoshi (right) and Michael Hwa (left, 76 years), Hun Yuan Ling Tong. 

    Bottom pix, our motley mix of 20 that conquered the extremely high altitudes and personal fears on the Roof of the World. The gentleman in the centre with both hands up is James Leong (77 years, he was the third fastest to reach Midui Glacier). We had 2 babies in the group, Mei Qun (24 years, fourth from left) and our official photographer, Justine Loi (28 years, kneeling centre). The rest of us "young ones" averaged at 50 - 70 years. 
                                   All my initial anxieties were pointless,
                                     it was simply MIND OVER MATTER
At the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

Note: The Midui glacier, like many other natural monuments has been affected by global warming. It has shrunk by at least 13% between 2002 and 2014. 


  1. Loud applause from here.
    My partner has been to Tibet and loved it. I worried (his lungs have spontaneously collapsed three times now) but he had no problems - though he didn't do your arduous trekking.
    Aren't glacier's incredible? I was blown away by the beauty and power of those I saw in Antarctica.

    1. Glad your partner made it to Tibet and back safely, and loved it as much as I did. Antarctica? Wow, that would have been a beautiful journey

  2. This is moment of lifetime.
    Enjoy, be happy.