Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Boracay Island and Riding Into Your Own Sunset

Boracay. A day starts and ends with varying shades of blues and greens, somber sunrises and golden sunsets, azure seas reaching far into a pastel horizon, and the tendrils of your hair wind-swept, and skin sun-kissed, you realize that the word “paradise” is not all that trite. This is where every single day is a chance to “ride into the sunset”. Just head 50 meters into the fine white sands; lie down where your feet lead you. Soak in the lapping of the gentlest ripples of a clear ocean. Serenity.

I have met hundreds of backpackers throughout my travels all over Asia, the European continent, the Indian subcontinent and I have yet to meet someone who has been to Boracay. Since this blogsite gets visits from an enormous variety of countries at any given time, I shall respectfully invite the wanderlustyou! - to find your way to this idyllic enclave in my idyllic little country. This is Boracay Island.

Puka Beach and his raging seas

A view from Mount Luho

And this is the Eye in the Sky wishing every adventurous soul a prosperous New Year! May we all have a safer world to travel on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boracay Island - In A Place They Call Paradise

Boracay. Close to being Earth’s surrogate to paradise. Where the quality of sand is stuff weaved into legendary tales. The waves sweep the shores like a gentle caress, and the waters sparkle like a luminescence that bore deep into where thy feet gradually sink down like a frolicky fondle.

I will always have tender memories of this island; recollections with my dad who I dearly miss in the midst of all this Christmas revelry and holiday frenzy.

I distinctly recall when I accompanied Sergio, my
Argentine friend, to Boracay. As our pump boat sailed closer to the island, he tugged my shoulder, and in a hushed voice of awe and bewilderment, his eyes glistened and he half-whispered in Spanish, “My heart is beating so fast!” Before then, I have regarded Boracay with an insider’s unflappability. But you see, Sergio is a world-weary guy who has seen most of the beauty that the world has to offer. I have since stepped into Bora's dominion more than a dozen times, enough for me to be cloaked with a jaded demeanor.

Last November, while I was braving the streets of Old Dhaka (Bangladesh) with my Swiss friend Karin, a surgeon and adventurer from Interleukin, she suddenly dropped the name, “Boracay…” – that she’s heard about it from other travelers – passing around this urban legend of an island paradise with sand as fine as powder, and as white as snow. Like Sergio, I have seen a lot of the world’s natural wonders. Indeed, in terms of the quality of sand, it is incomparable even to the more famous Bali in Indonesia. This island, located at the fringes of Aklan province – is still one of the best kept secrets that, despite local perception, is yet to be discovered by the horde of backpacking crowd.

In wetness and in health...

So to the Joes and the Janes of the world, if you are headed towards Paradise, set your sights somewhere in the middle of the Philippine archipelago where a little island beckons. You just might find what adventurers continually seek in their search for themselves.

And boy, I havent’ even mentioned Palawan.

People-watching, a favorite pastime in Bora...

Pssst... pssst...

Gary has a toy...

The Boracay Rock

Who loves the sun? 

Arnis, yeah!

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Retrospective: Paralyzed Highway En Route Russia's Yakutsk City

Yakutsk Theatre. This photo only courtesy of wikipedia's canadier.

The coldest I have ever experienced in my life was – 5 degrees Celsius, with the gales blowing wild – and Europe is notorious for such extreme weather. Yesterday, my friend Vinay, a delightful spice merchant from Mumbai, forwarded to me a series of photos that allegedly transpired in Russia's Siberian Region – at a federal highway from Moscow to the city of Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic. The city is located 4 degrees below the Arctic Circle and is reputed to be one of the coldest cities on Earth, with January temperatures averaging -40.9 degrees Celsius. Yakutsk City is the biggest city built on continuous permafrost. This region is also reputed for its unimaginable wealth in diamonds and gold, oil and gas. In fact, Sakha is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of diamonds. Yakutsk sits on the basin of the Lena River. Having read all these, I figured I needed to share these here in Eye in the Sky.

Far away places like Yakutsk interest me, thus my friend’s email started an avalanche of readings that had me thirsting for more information about the city. I invariably came across the original site that featured the so-called paralyzed highway, and these series of photos date back 2 years ago (2006), so it would probably be safe to conclude that such highway may have already been rehabilitated as I write this. (Updates on the highway would be appreciated.) Nevertheless, the photos are an interesting bunch that I would like to share in this blogsite. They were taken by Pasik. Someone named “Alex from Russia” commented that “This is not a winter road. This is the only road to Yakutsk, intended for all seasons. There is no another way to come to Yakutsk excluding air strips and shipsyards.” (http://www.englishrussia.com/?p=315)

Here is the annotation coming from the forwarded mail:

The Russian Federal Highway runs from Moscow to Yakutsk City in Siberia. Though it is a vital highway, the road doesn’t have an asphalt surface.

Everytime it rains, the road is paralyzed. These shots were taken approximately a few days before some 600 vehicles were stuck here. Hunger followed, and vehicles ran out of fuel. A woman even gave birth to a child while stuck on a public bus.

Construction teams were afraid to appear on site because people had been breaking the locks of their own vehicles in search of food and warm clothing.

So, the next time you whinge about the conditions in your own country, think of the Russians affected by this.

Though this may have happened 2 years ago, this doesn’t change the fact that some of us should be grateful that we are able to enjoy the warmth and all the comforts of home. Times have been hard, but this is a season to count our blessings. In some ways, we are lucky to be alive and healthy.

As an update, a 34.5 billion rouble ($1.28 billion) railroad is in the works - expected to be completed in 2013. State monopoly Russian Railways will provide 4 billion roubles of funding for the link from the towns of Tommot to Yakutsk, while the rest will come from federal and regional budgets, said Irina Kotenko, spokeswoman for the Basic Element unit handling the construction.

Russia has earmarked a considerable budget for the development of Yakutia, a resource rich but largely barren region roughly five times the size of France.

To complement this set, I am also posting some other photos of
Yakutsk to highlight the beauty of this Russian City. Thanks to the wonderful photographers featured here.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

The beauty of Yakutsk City as seen through the eyes of other photographers:

Ostrog Tower courtesy of Saastra of wikipedia.

Lena River courtesy of synchroswimr from wikipedia.

Kulakovskystreet by saaska of wikipedia.

photo courtesy of flickr's bolotbootur

photo courtesy of flickr's bolotbootur

Women wait for the bus at Yakutsk city center in -40 degree Celsius last January 2008. Photo courtesy of bolotbootur

Lenin Square in Yakutsk City photo courtesy of bolotbootur.

Not a bad highway, Yakutsk City. Photo courtesy of flickr's marsy1.

The Lena River in Yakutsk City. Photo courtesy of flickr's marsy1. The rest of the spectacular photos below are also courtesy of flicker's marsy1.


- saastra of wikipedia, flickr's bolotbootur, flickr's marcy1, and canadier & synchroswimr from wikipedia, the www.englishrussia.com website and Pasik, and my friend Vinay from Mumbai who forwarded the piece of "Paralyzed Highway".

Once again, have a Happy Holidays to everyone. May you all be blessed with happiness, contentment and a hopeful and kind heart for a more prosperous year ahead.