Category: Travelling

Kitebeach review – I liked Bulabog beach on Boracay, the Philippines

I really really liked kiteboarding at Bulabog beach on Boracay. It has a lot speaking for it: shape that gives you both freeridable chop, near-perfect flat for those fast runs and nice waves behind the reef. There are bigger and more beautiful beaches out there but none with three different ‘terrains’ on one small beach like this. It was just awesome. It also has the infrastructure you need on the beach: a couple of cafes and bars, kitesurfing shops to store your gear or rent sizes you are missing, beach boys that help to rig, launch or pack your kites and, last and perhaps least, hot spectators that give you the motivation to jump a meter higher and work on your smooth transitions or grabs.

It has two problems, however. First, Boracay directs the sewage straight into the sea on the Bulabog side of the island which makes water near shore dirty, and I mean getting a rash kind of dirty. Secondly, there are lots of kiteshops which means there are lots of students, so area close to the beach tends to get crowded. As such I wouldn’t recommend Boracay to beginners that spend a lot of time in the water near shore. But if you’re intermediate or an advanced kiter, you can leave the crowds behind and either hit the surf further out or go around the small peninsula to kite at the south end of the beach. The water will be cleaner there as well. You can also ride to the island just south of Boracay to kite on Union beach which supposedly is even better for wave riding – as it’s a bit of a trip one shouldn’t do the ‘commute’ alone so unfortunately I didn’t end up going. Next time, then.

There’s many things to be said about Boracay itself. There’s a lot not to like there. Because Mother Nature has been very generous when shaping the White beach and because of easy access to the island it can be very touristy and crowded. In fact, on my first two days on Boracay I almost hated the place: hotels crammed densely on the beach, beaches full of people, shit techno-pop thumping from bars, inflated prices. Then two things happened: first we learned where the most crowded and noisy places so we could safely ignore them. And we discovered the southern tip of the White beach which is charmingly underdeveloped, and as such much quieter. It’s the kind of place where you can just sink in a chair, read a book or watch the sunset.

So all in all Boracay is a bit of smorgasbord that has some really awesome bits and a couple of things to watch out for. What comes to Bulabog beach then like with a certain nocturnal activity, sometimes you have to get dirty to have fun.

Tips: stay on Bulabog or the south end of the White beach, leave your kites with Jojo at the Timog kite shop (look out for Airush flags) and always always ask not to add sugar when you’re ordering one of the delicious mango shakes.

How I became homeless

I’ve lived away from Estonia for almost three and a half years. Some time in the second year I started feeling very much at home in London. And at the same time I still felt at home when visiting Estonia, despite having to sleep in hotels. Sweet, I’m at home in two places, I thought. But on the flipside I was actually double homeless (if such a thing exists) as I was never in my one and only home.

Next couple of months look to shake up the institution of home even more, and I’ll probably set a new world record homelessness in the category of people that are a tenant in one flat (or maybe two) and landlord in another.

Have I regretted letting myself become homeless like this? Just one thing – that I didn’t pick darts or swimming as my favourite hobby and now have to drag a kitesurfing bag from place to place.

Lennu­firmadele ­teine põsk

Paar nädalat tagasi oli mul Eestisse jõudmisega omajagu tegemist, ja see inspireeris Ekspressile alljärgnevat kirjutama. Olgu öeldud, et sõnapidaja inimesena võtsin täpselt nädal hiljem sama lennu, jõudes seekord kenasti kohale.

See siin peaks olema lennuarvustus, mis sarjaks Finnairi selle eest, et ta mind üheks pikaks teisipäevaööks Vantaa lennuväljale ööbima jättis ja et ma kell üks öösel mööda lennujaama ringi kablutama ning lennufirma esindajat otsima pidin; tõik, millest selle leheosa toimetaja sai aimu Skype’i tujuteate kaudu. Aga see oleks ju sama, mis pahandada vihmaga sadamise pärast või poriga selle pärast, et ta määrib. Sest kui lendad kümneid ja kümneid lende aastas, siis ikka juhtub, et lennukompaniid rikastavad su elu väikeste marsuudimuutuste või hilinemistega.

Inimese lennureisimisekarjääril on teatavasti mitu taset. Neist esimesel on lennusõit justkui omaette sündmus, mis peaaegu et väärib habeme korralikult äraajamist ja puhtaid põlvikuid. Algajad lendajad tunned selle järgi ära, et nad kuulavad enne lendu turvainstruktsioone, vaatavad peaaegu kogu lennu jooksul aknast välja, teevad pilvemerest pilte ning üllatuvad selle üle, et lennukitoit maitseb nagu niiske villane sokk.

Järgmisel tasemel on lendamine muutunud rutiinseks ühest kohast teise kulgemiseks. Sellised punkist A punkti B minejad ei pane enam käsipagasisse rohkem kui 100 milliliitrit sisaldavaid vedelikke, ei moodusta väravasse saba tund aega enne pardalemineku algust ega klammerdu istme käetoe või naabri külge, kui lennuk turbulentsis veidi rappub.

Ja lennupüramiidi viimasele tasemele oled jõudnud siis, kui lennujaamad hakkavad tunduma hubaste koduste paikadena, kui sinu boonuspunktiprogrammide staatus on kuskil plaatina ja polooniumi vahepeal, kui suudad vähemalt kolmes maailma lennujaamas kinnisilmi liikuda ja oled veidi pettunud kui äriklassi ootesaalis istub keegi “sinu” koha peal (see seal nurgas, kus saab arvutiakut laadida ja kust näeb hästi väljuvate lendude tablood).

Iga järgmise tasemega väheneb inimese võime lennufirma peale vihastada. Viimasesse gruppi kuuluvale reisihundile võid öelda, et tema lend hilineb sihtkohta nädala, mille peale ta lihtsalt sirutab käe hambaharjakoti ja hotellivautšeri järele, ilma et näos liiguks ükski lihas. Esimese taseme lennureisija saaks ilmselt sama uudise peale kreepsu ning teeks oma olukorda hullemaks sellega, et tüütaks kõiki sõpru ja sugulasi oma lennulooga tülide, abielulahutuste või lausa mõrvadeni.

Nii et Finnair, saan aru, et tegijal juhtub, ja pikka viha ei pea. Katsun omalt poolt rohkem lennata, et sellistest intsidentidest veel vähem tülinat oleks.

Shanghai travel tips

280px-Pudong-Puxi.jpgThis is the blog post I never found that includes some tips what to do in Shanghai (when you go there for work and have a bit of spare time to see the city).

A technique that worked well was to have a list of about seven things to see and do in your pocket along with addresses written in Mandarin. Then, whenever I had some a slot to fill I just picked a random destination and a cab driver would take me there for two to three pounds. Cabs in Shanghai are cheap and plenty.

A definite must is YuYuan Garden which is very touristy but also very nice. There’s a market where you can buy superb tea and very cheap crap surrounding the garden. Also, there’s a touristy restaurant that does heavenly dim sum just next to the garden entrance.

I’d say the urban planning museum is also a must. In any other city or country this would be a boring dusty place. In Shanghai it’s a temple to planning and manifestation of ideas. Let the greatest car industry hub in the planet be on this piece of land by 2011. Consider it done! (US and Japan who?) Let a green suburban town with 200.000 inhabitants rise on this marshland in 5 years. Voila! Impressive as well as scary stuff.

(Quite a bit of the museum was out of order eg. one escalator and the thingie that tells you about F1 in China. How very illustrative of the fact that plans don’t always pan out the way they should…)

Then there’s the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Or rather a small space in an apartment block basement that feature two rooms full of the art of propaganda. It’s a bit tricky to find, just drive to the address, find the right gate and look a bit lost (it should come quite naturally at that stage). Then, the security guard will come and point you to the right direction. Once inside, you’ll find the full history of China from 1940’s to 1970’s condensed into seventy or so awesome posters. Tauno, thanks for the tip!

If you’re into art and such you’ll also enjoy MoGanShan Road, a block of old warehouses which is now home to dozens of art galleries, workshops and studios. It’s wonderful to potter around in this 3D maze and get acquainted to the hip Chinese modern art. Take Zengguo Li, whose horse painting pictured above is now forever haunting me. Other notes to self: PEI Lian-zhi and Shi Jian and PengPeng. Highrisers are closing in on the MoGanShan area, though. Even on a Sunday, there was intense construction work going on next door. I’d be surprised if this lovely part of the city is still there in five years time.

The tourist/expat nightlife happens on the Bund. There’s plenty of nice restaurants and bars around which are all very nice but there’s not much ‘Shanghai’ there, these venues could be anywhere. There’s also Xin Tian Di area which is full of ‘international’ bars and restaurants and Heng Shan road which is less glam and more local. Except for a bar called Soho there which appears as if Apple’s Jonathan Ivy had designed it, after consuming a large quantity of LSD.

And naturally don’t forget to have a cheap good massages whenever you can, and enjoy the food. If it’s summer go eat at YongFoo Elite where the food is nothing to write home about but the 1920’s ambiance is awesome, especially in the garden terrace. A bit of like Ammende villa in Pärnu, Estonia.

Oh, and I was warned about ‘tea ceremonies’ or ‘showing exclusive art work’ at the back of a bar. Apparently a good way to part with your money, though I wasn’t offered a chance.

In 2008 I travelled at the speed of a butterfly

Dopplr is a nifty little web tool that helps you bump into people that travel a lot. I’ve added it to my profile, too (mind the photo). Dopplr just sent me my annual travel report. It says: You took 21 trips in 2008, which added up to 76,089 km or 20% of the distance to the moon. You spent 116 days travelling. I was surprised at this relatively large number, even with Tallinn, which almost doesn’t count as travelling, being my number one destination. And what’s funny – my personal velocity for 2008 was 8.68 km/h, which is about the same as a butterfly.
A few ideas sprang to mind

  • I’m feeling I’m bi-domiciled now. Or bi-homeless, whichever way to look at it. I feel at home both in London and in Estonia. Boarding the familiar blueish aircraft which is familiarly late is like stepping from living room into my bedroom.
  • Ma carbon footprint calculated by Dopplr is almost as much as leaving a Hummer running for a year. What are my best options to set it off? And if I mostly travel for work, should I expense it accordingly?
  • If we’re not yet connected on Dopplr please share your trips with me.
  • I updated this post a day later. Note to self: writing stuff down in a hurry can miss the point of writing.

    God bless California

    The sign in front of US economy It’s difficult to do injustice to a country like the United States but I think I have managed to do just that. I hadn’t been to the States a while. One the one hand because there was no good reason to go but on the other hand I sort of thought that even if there was a reason to go, that’s not a good enough reason to actually go. Having been to New York and Miami, arguably the hotspots of that great country, and having been unimpressed by both, I was feeling strongly neutral about travelling to USA and was absolutely sure there were about a thousand better places to go to.
    This turned out to be injustice. I had come to that conclusion before I had been to California. It was very refreshing to be there, and not just because of the weather. Because it was a short work trip I couldn’t see and do enough to write a travel journal or even a travel memo but I did make a mental note not to rule out California as a holiday destination.
    Still, one thing that was impossible to miss was that everyone in the States seemed to be talking about Obama, almost as if he is the Messiah. Looking at the state of the country he has to do miracles of similar magnitude, too. First he has to feed about 300 million people (and a few banks and auto makers) with two fish and 5 barley loaves. Then he has to calm the stormy seas of US foreign policy. I wish the man nothing but good luck.
    The only time media didn’t only talk about Obama was when the commercials were on. In a very non-American way the commercials were mainly about how to turn excess gold jewelry into cash, get a free consultation on credit card debt or advice on paying taxes. On my previous visits they had mostly been about buying a bigger car that would get rid of the existing car’s problem of not consuming enough fuel. And hey, maybe it was this shift in the mentality that made this country more appealing to me. Might even try Utah next time.

    Ignoring basic health and safety regulations – in Scotland

    They call me Ishmael. I will probably never read these words first hand, though I would very much like to read Moby Dick. There’s just not enough time to read every book you want to read. Scotland has so far been a destination equivalent of literary classics for me. In my view Highlands would surely be beautiful, wild and almost romantic – but I just had no good reason to go there.
    So it is without a good reason that I landed in Aberdeen one beautiful evening just after the sunset and headed off to Royal Deeside, about 50 miles away. The landscape on both sides of the road was beautiful. It’s a pity as it was dark as the humour of Scottish comedian Jerry Sadowitch outside and none of that beauty was to be seen.
    Travelling with three British lads you would expect a weekend of football shirts, drunk shouting on streets and slapping of waitresses’ asses. None of this was on our travel agenda however. It were majestic outdoor activities like swimming in refreshing mountain rivers, golf, clay pigeon shooting and other such awaiting us. Perhaps a whisky distillery or a few thrown in as well.
    We stayed at Hilton Craigendarroch. Judging by the name you’d expect a castle where you can feel the centuries gone by, exchange polite formalities with the butler and expose myself to spookiness of local ghost stories. What we got was Duran Duran, Blondie and bright coloured silk ties. The hotel just outside the small town of Ballater is a prime example of eighties yuppie culture. I bet that back in the day its dry slope, pool filled to floor level and ensuite Jacuzzy sparked standing ovations. Now it sparks little more than smirks. We downed our mandatory glasses of scotch, smirking and hit the bed to be in good shape for our morning adventures.

    Continue reading

    Travel report

    In the last month I’ve ticked two names off my would-be-nice-to-see-some-day travel destinations: Scotland and Ibiza. You’d think they are diametrically different but there are quite a few similarities. Mountains, beautiful nature and lots of not-so-wanted Brits around. Contrary to my prejudice Ibiza can be a nice chillaxing place. My two cents on that island:

  • Stay away from the concrete jungle that is called party town San Antonio.
  • Rent a scooter or a car and check out the more remote beaches. A yacht if you can. (We couldn’t)
  • Go dine at Bambuddha Grove. Don’t let the own-brand clothing line store and embedded sex shop fool you – the food as well as the ambiance are very nice.
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    More on Scotland soon, the travel journal is already with Eesti Ekspress and a team of twenty linguists are busy translating it into English.
    And you just gotta love Ryanair, even with their website looking butt ugly and pricing policy as transparent as a tin coffin filled with mud. This week they’re selling tickets at ridiculous prices. A return ticket to Dublin or Newquay, Cornwall costs 10 pounds, including taxes and such. That’s so little I got tickets for both for the same weekend. If the surf is good I’m off to Cornwall. If not then the capital of Ireland it is.

    Note to self: I like Amsterdam

    I started the week in Amsterdam with an unbelievably enjoyable long weekend trip. The moment I stepped out from the cab to enter the apartment we had rented on Prinsengracht I remembered just how much I like that city. For me Amsterdam combines the virtues of a big city (sights, food, entertainment, connectedness) and a small city (coziness, little need to plan ahead, not that expensive, freedom to bike) in a way that I haven’t seen anywhere else. So very gesellig! Plus I quite like the simple directness of the Dutch and the perverse beauty of the language. I suspect some day there may be a vol 2 coming to the four months I spent studying there.
    If you haven’t been yet, book now and thank me later.

    Luxembourg is (a bit) safer than Estonia

    After booking a flight to Luxembourg the paranoia service of the new travel agency strikes again. I am sparing you the details, but still:
    There is no specific threat to foreigners traveling to or residing in Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy is a modern country with a stable economy and political system.
    Luxembourg has a very low crime rate. Visitors should, nonetheless, take appropriate precautions.
    Trafficking of drugs and firearms is illegal and can result in severe punishment.

    I consider myself warned. And it is not all rosy:
    There are winding roads in the countryside and cyclists or farm vehicles can sometimes impede the movement of traffic. There is also congestion during rush hours in the main cities. Visitors should take extra precautions while driving in high volume commuter and tourist traffic, or during winter fog and snowfalls.
    What main cities? Plural? In Luxembourg? I have clearly underestimated the greatness of Esch-sur-Alzette, Dudelange and Differdange (about 20 thousand people each).
    And then there’s the condom bit:

  • Prevention: Always use new condoms (preferably brought from your home country), do not share needles, and in hospitals, ensure that needles and syringes are new.

  • Sourcing condoms from your own country is not really an option when you learn about the trip only two days in advance…