Visitors throng Red Sand on weekends and holidays

Updated 29 January 2014
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Visitors throng Red Sand on weekends and holidays

Red Sand in northeastern Riyadh has become a popular weekend destination among Saudis and expatriates who are fond of the desert.
As its name suggests, the sand is red.
It is an hour’s drive along winding roads. Mountainous areas, ancient date forests and green hills and valleys can be seen along the way.
“You could rent four-wheelers to ride around the area, like we do whenever we go there on weekends or Eid holidays,” said Jack Canete, who works for a local construction firm and is a member of a bikers’ group.
Canete and his group head out just before sunrise and find residents from the city or adjoining districts renting out four-wheel drives.
“This is a way of reliving our youth back home, where we used to bike as a way of keeping ourselves physically fit.”
For others, visiting Red Sand is a way of taking a break from city life. “If you’re tired of the humdrum, especially bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak hours, a visit to Red Sand is a welcome break,” said Cenon ‘Nonie’ S. Sagadal Jr., a local bank marketing representative.
Sagadal still visits Red Sand but not as frequently as when his family was still with him in the Kingdom.
“There’s not much to see if you’re looking for breathtaking scenery, but the vast desert that you see around as you drive toward the area could evoke immense happiness that’s better felt than understood,” he said.
He added, however, that the adventurous could make things happen. “My family and I, for instance, used to hike the sand dunes. We considered this an important exercise because it’s one way of bonding as a family.”
Abu Ali, a Saudi who works for a local company, added that he and a few friends go to Red Sand once in a while to escape the noise of the city.
“We have our own place in the area for quiet reflection, while others have their fun. We hike the trails out of curiosity with the birds chirping and flying above us. We try to discover new ground every time we go,” he said.
Benny M. Quiambao, a Filipino community leader, added that he also likes Red Sand.
“I have memories of certain woods and certain hills at Red Sand,” he said.
One advantage is that visitors make it a point to pick up any litter before they leave the place, he said, probably because they want others to do the same as well.
“Others bring food which they eat after hiking or riding around with their four-wheelers, but they make it a point to pick up trash before they leave. This encourages visitors to the area to do the same,” he said.


Philippines to re-open ‘cesspool’ Boracay after clean up

Updated 23 min 59 sec ago
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Philippines to re-open ‘cesspool’ Boracay after clean up

  • Boracay will have fewer hotels and restaurants, a cap on the number of visitors and anti-beach boozing rules when it reopens

MANILA: The Philippines re-opens its crown jewel resort island Boracay to holidaymakers on Friday, after a six-month clean up aimed at repairing the damage inflicted by years of unrestrained mass tourism.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island shuttered in April for a major effort to fortify weak infrastructure and crack down on the rampant overdevelopment that had left it, what he termed, a “cesspool.”

When the government throws open the doors, Boracay will have fewer hotels and restaurants, a cap on the number of visitors and anti-beach boozing rules aimed at taming its party-hard reputation.

All of this is intended to protect the bruised beauty of the island’s turquoise waters and expanses of white sand beaches which were being loved to death by two million tourists per year.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she hopes the new Boracay will be the start of a “culture of sustainable tourism” in the Philippines, adding other tourist destinations will be next.

“It means taking account of the repercussions of our actions on current and future situations of the environment,” she told reporters on Friday.

Romulo-Puyat said she has sent a written “warning” to other top Philippine tourist draws including El Nido and Panglao islands, while others, such as the whale-shark-feeding site of Oslob have cut its tourist arrivals by half.

Boracay, which major tourist magazines consistently rate as among the world’s best beaches, is a mere 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres).

Yet it was seeing up to 40,000 sun worshippers at peak times, who left behind $1 billion a year but also mountains of garbage, an overflowing sewer system and a carnival-like atmosphere.

Under the new rules, 19,200 tourists will be allowed on the island at any one time, with the government aiming to enforce that by controlling the number of available hotel rooms.

Fire eaters, masseuses, vendors, stray dogs, bonfires and even the builders of its famous photo-op sandcastles have been chased from the beachfront, while buildings were torn down to create a 30-meter(98-foot) easement from the waterline.

All water sports save for swimming are also banned for the time being, while Boracay’s three casinos have been permanently shut down in line with Duterte’s wishes.

Nearly 400 hotels and restaurants deemed to violate local environmental laws have already been ordered closed and airlines as well as ferries were told to restrict service to the area.

Boozing and smoking are banned on the beach and the huge multi-day beach parties dubbed “LaBoracay” that drew tens of thousands of tourists during the May 1 Labour Day weekend will be a thing of the past.

The Boracay Foundation, the main business industry group on the island, did not comment on the new rules but welcomed the return of tourists.

“We are pleased that workers have now got their jobs back and will now be able to do what they love and provide for their families,” its executive director Pia Miraflores said.

“Everyone, big and small, has sacrificed a lot during the six-month (closure),” she added.

Other places in the region strained by mass tourism have also used closures as a tactic to protect the sites from destruction.

Thai authorities announced in October that the glittering bay immortalized in the movie “The Beach” will be closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from the impact of hordes of tourists.