Friday, December 12, 2014

#blackandwhitechallenge


While out-of-action with a broken collarbone, I thought I'd go through some of my favorite images and rework them in black and white.

#blackandwhitechallenge Day 1/5. Taken in the Gobi Desert during a 250km ultra-marathon called the Gobi March in 2005. Our team of 3 was hot on the heels of Team USA, but we would eventually lose to them, finishing 2nd in a very small field. It was my job to be the team photographer, so the guys offered to lighten my load in order for me to run ahead, snap a few shots, and then run to catch up. - Taken with a Pentax Optio 43WR, 95mm (35mm equiv), f/9.3, 1/200, ISO50. 
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 2/5.  Joanne descending into the mist on the Via Feratta, Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo Malaysia. Jo is one of 5 amazing women who climbed Mt. Everest in 2009. At the invitation of Mountain Torq, we were allowed to climb freely on the Kinabalu Massif without the need of guides. Taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3, 24mm equiv, f/4.0, 1/50, ISO80.

#blackandwhitechallenge Day 3/5. This amazing woman is my wife, Laura, during the inaugural Tour de Timor Mountain Bike Race in 2009. We were rookies and did not really know what we were doing. It was the first day of the 5-Day stage race, she finished dead last, and the medics sent her to the hospital in Bacau for what looked like heat exhaustion. She started the next day though, and finished the race strong. That was the start of her mountain bike career. Today, at nearly 50-years-old, she is Singapore's current XC Mountain Bike Champion. - Taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3, 24mm equiv., f/4.5, 1/800, ISO80. 
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 4/5. Megagrit! - Pauline cranking out some Wall Ball Sit Ups with a broken foot at Crossfit Singapore. I'm inspired as I begin my own rehab for a broken collarbone. Taken with a Nikon D7000, 12-24mm at 12mm, f/4, 1/60, ISO1600.
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 5/5. Summit, Mt. Chola (6168m), China. This is one of my favourite shots in color, but the b&w contrast and vignette adds some drama to the dawn sky.  Taken with a Panasonic LX3 at 24mm equiv, f/2.8, 1/500, ISO80

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yes! I am Ironman!!!

I broke my collarbone into 3 pieces about three weeks ago.  It was a rock-climbing accident.  I was learning to ride a motorbike so that I could access a rock-climbing crag in Thailand, fell down and broke my collarbone... so to ease my battered ego, I'm chalking it up as a climbing accident;)
My Collarbone Broken in 3 Pieces :( Meh
I had surgery done about 2 weeks back and am on the road to recovery.  The procedure was pretty high-tech.  I had a stainless steel (recommended by the surgeon over titanium) plate inserted under my collarbone by keyhole surgery.  The plate was bent to conform to the shape of my collarbone, and inserted underneath so that I won't feel the plate when I'm carrying a backpack.
Stainless Steel Plate inserted under Collarbone
I had a couple of projects planned out, but that will have to wait til I'm stronger.  I've not been very active on Instagram, but I'm getting bored and looking for things to do, so I'm reviving my Instagram account and learning about hash tags.  Ho hum...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where Stone Meets Ocean

When I think about rock-climbing destinations in Asia, Taiwan does not readily spring to mind, but there I was, on a spur-of-the-moment trip... and having the time of my life!
Rock-Climbing, Long Dong, Taiwan. Copyright © Kenneth Koh 2014

Long Dong (龍洞 lóng dòng), which means Dragon's Cave is the name of the stretch of sea cliffs along Taiwan's North East coast.  About an hour's drive from Taipei, the climbs range from 5.4 to 5.14a and comprise of both sport and trad routes, mostly single pitch with a few multi-pitch routes.


Where Stone Meets Ocean from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

Quality of the routes is generally very high, and old bolts are being replaced with new stainless steel ones.  There are some areas with loose rock and it's best to get information about the area you intend to climb from locals or and the latest guidebook available here.

This is probably the most dramatic location I've climbed at.  The waves are incredibly powerful, and must be respected at all times.  No less than six people were swept out to sea the weekend I was there.  Making your way to and from the climb is probably more hazardous than the actual climbing!

Along with the waves, weather can be an issue.  The climbing season is year round, although it can get very hot and humid in Summer, and Winter can be wet.  Your best bet is late Fall, after the Typhoon season (October-November).
Sunset, Long Dong, Taiwan. Copyright © Kenneth Koh 2014

Although I can speak a little Mandarin, I can't read or write.  I got QX (qxadventures.com) to arrange transport and accommodation for me in Long Dong, which turned out be a simple, but comfortable guest house in Long Dong Village.  Frankly, there isn't much to do outside of climbing in Long Dong.  Fortunately, QX shuttled us out for breakfast and dinner everyday.  If you need a guide, or just someone to make arrangements for your climbing in Long Dong, check out qxadventures.com.

Tech notes:  I used my new Panasonic GH4 for most of the video, GoPro on a DJI Phantom for the aerials, and iPhone 4s for the night opera, and the last sequence of Clare climbing was contributed by QX.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Switzerland Mountain Biking

My wife, Laura, and I were supposed to go mountain biking in Switzerland last year.  Our goal was to ride the complete Swiss Alpine One Mountain Bike Trail, which at 666km, is the longest signposted mountain biking trail in the world.  However, we could not get our heads around how expensive things were in Switzerland and how much that trip would eventually cost us.  So that plan was axed.
Refuel stop at 'Le Cafe', somewhere along the trail... Taken with an iPhone 4s
This year, when we found out that Scott Roberts and a bunch of Malaysian riders were going, we wangled our way into the trip.   Scott's our Swiss bike guru, having made trips out there at least once a year for the last decade.  He knows the ins and outs of the place, and how to keep costs down.  This year, he planned to bike the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland.  Sounded like fun, but what we did not realize, was that he planned us on the hiking route, not the bike route.  Check out the video below and you'll see what I mean!


Switzerland Mountain Biking from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

Thankfully, the weather turned on us, and the high passes that we would have to cross had a lot of fresh snowfall on them, and we would not be able to cross them to make our way to Zermatt.  We changed our plans, took a train down to the southern town of Lugano, where the sun was at least shining, and it was warm.
Taking a break along Bike Trail 329 out of Klosters, Switzerland.  Taken with an iPhone 4s.
When the guys left, Laura and I still had another week in Switzerland, which we spent at her sister's place in Klosters.  The weather cleared up, and as you can see in the video below, we had a great time there as well.


Switzerland Mountain Biking: Part Deux from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

We learned a lot from this trip, but the main thing was that Switzerland IS expensive, and there is no getting away from that.  But what you get for your money are great biking trails, awesome mountain scenery, and renown efficient Swiss trains for getting around the country with your bike.  And yes, in case you are wondering, we will be heading back to complete the Swiss Alpine One Mountain Bike Trail!
Goodbye Switzerland... But we'll be back!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mae Hong Son Circuit

I love January in Northern Thailand.  The weather is just about perfect, and feels a bit like Southern California - dry, cool in the shade and warm in the sun.  The holiday crowds have mostly gone, and there is a nice, laid-back atmosphere. 



My wife Laura, and I set off to ride our road bikes on the Mae Hong Son Circuit, which starts out of Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, and loops to the north.  It can be done clockwise or anticlockwise, but if you are going by bicycle, I would suggest doing it anticlockwise.  That saves the option of going over Doi Inthanon, Thailand's biggest peak, for last.

Getting a flight into Chiang Mai is easy, but getting the bike boxes to the hotel may be a bit of a challenge if you are new to Thailand.  The easiest way is to arrange transport with your hotel and let them know you have bike boxes.  We just flagged down a 'Song Thiew' at the airport.  Technically, they are not supposed to pick up passengers, but security guards can be understanding when they see you've got oversized bags that won't fit in the standard transport options from the airport.
Baan Rai Laana Resort, Mae Taeng, at the end of Day1. Image taken wtih iPhone 4s

We like to stay in 'Old Chiang Mai', within the moat of the old city.  There are numerous hotels there.  We like using the 'Old Canal Road' as an option to stay off the highway getting out and coming back into Chiang Mai.  We try to stay off the main roads, using backroads as much as possible.  I planned the route on 'RidewithGPS' and transfered the route onto my iPhone, using Gaia GPS to navigate enroute.
Breakfast in Pai. Image taken wtih iPhone 4s

Our anticlockwise route took us from Chiang Mai to Mae Taeng, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Khun Yuam, and Mae Sariang.  From Mae Sariang, we wanted to proceed to Mae Chaem, and over Doi Inthanon to get back to Chiang Mai, but we took an easier option to ride via Hot back to Chiang Mai.  You can find the planning for this trip on RidewithGPS.
Morning mist over Chong Kham Lake, Mae Hong Son. Image taken wtih iPhone 4s

It's good to do a little research before the ride so you can plan out where to take your rest days and what you might like to do.  I like Pai and Mae Sariang as good places to break the journey.

We used regular road bikes with Revelate Designs bags.  I find this setup ideal for light and fast tours.  Now that Laura and I no longer have plans to do long distance touring, we have sold our Surly LHTs and panniers setup.  The only change we would advise is to use a cassette with larger cogs.  We used a compact crankset (50-34) with an 11-28 cassette and had to push up a few steep bits.  The next time we take our road bikes out on tour, we'll fit them out with 11-32 cassettes.

You'll be stopping in places where they don't see many foreign tourists, so its good to learn a few words and numbers in Thai:
Hello - Sawadee Krup (Ka, feminine)
Room - Hong
Water - Nam
Toilet - Hong Nam
Not spicy - My Pet
Ice Coffee - Cafe Yen
One - Neng
Two - Song
Three - Sam
The Old City Gates of Chiang Mai. Image taken wtih iPhone 4s

The Mae Hong Son Circuit is a good one for more experienced and fit riders.  We suffered our fair share of mechanicals, food poisoning, lack of fitness. We'll probably go back and do it again;)  Distances are about 100km with about 2000m of climbing each day.  The roads get busy near Chiang Mai and Pai, and there isn't much of a shoulder to ride on.   For an easier road tour ride in Thailand, check out my blog post on riding bike touring Phuket.