After conquering Everest, Philippine adventurer sets sail for China on an ancient boat

Above, the traditional Philippine wooden boat known as balangay sailing on their craft in Manila Bay, which Filipino adventurer Carina Dayondon is set to sail to China. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2017
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After conquering Everest, Philippine adventurer sets sail for China on an ancient boat

MANILA: After conquering Mount Everest, Philippine adventurer Carina Dayondon is set to sail to China aboard a wooden replica of an ancient boat in the hopes of boosting national pride in a forgotten maritime prowess.
Dayondon is planning to sail from Manila to southern China early next year, recreating trade and migration voyages made before Spaniards colonized the Philippines in the 1500s.
“People tell me I am crazy. They ask: ‘Wow, why climb Mount Everest? Why go to China on this tiny thing,’” Dayondon said in Manila Bay aboard one of the two boats that will make the expected six-day sailing journey.
“I’m excited because our team will be more inspired realizing how good our forefathers were. We have to let people know we should be proud of being Filipino,” the 39-year-old added.
Dayondon, a petite but muscular coast guard officer, created history in 2007 when she and two other countrywomen became the first Filipinos to summit the world’s highest mountain.
Arturo Valdez, who led their Everest support team, is also heading the sailing mission and similarly sees the journey to China as a chance to inspire Filipinos.
“Like Mount Everest, I want this to be symbolic of what our people can accomplish, of what can be possible out of the so-called impossible,” the 69-year-old said.
The vessels are a copy of a “balangay,” which date back as far as 320 AD.
“Early trade with China and Southeast Asia was made possible by watercraft,” Ligaya Lacsina, researcher at the National Museum’s maritime division, said.
“Europeans during the colonial period were effusive in their praise of Southeast Asian boat-building skill. But somehow we’ve paid very little attention to this.”
Tribal boat-builders from the southern Philippines, where the boats originated, have made the replicas of the balangay using skills passed on down the generations.
The boats, 18 meters (60 feet) long by three meters (10 feet) wide, are made of hardwood planks, include two sails, two rudders and a roofed area.
Their journey to the southeastern Chinese city of Quanzhou will be about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), and the crewmembers are aiming to do it with as little modern technical help as possible.
“We have no night-sailing capability so we can be run over by a super tanker. That’s my fear. The greatest difficulty of replicating an ancient voyage is modernity because there are new port protocols,” Valdez said.
“This kind of boat is being treated as a maritime hazard.”
Daily life aboard the boat is a struggle, according to Dayondon.
“We sleep anywhere because we don’t have quarters. We have no toilet. We just hold the rope and use a harness and do the proper position so we don’t fall,” she said.
Nevertheless, a third boat with a motor will accompany the balangays otherwise they will not be allowed into Chinese ports.
Their trip is planned to commemorate a journey made about 600 years ago by a sultan from the southern island of Sulu who went to China to pay tribute to Ming Dynasty rulers there but who but died of an illness on his way home.
The voyage to China will be the team’s second maritime quest following a 17-month journey that began in 2009 around Southeast Asia.
One of the group’s biggest challenges is off the water — finding enough money to fund the adventure.
The team members plan to open the vessels to the public for educational tours and even wedding shoots to raise money for their upkeep in Manila Bay.
Valdez, who also shepherded the first Philippine men up Mount Everest in 2006, said he hoped the government would financially back such feats but they had not.
“Filipinos love us when we climb Mount Everest, love us with our exploits but they are not willing to pay for that. And that makes us a poorer nation,” he said.
“Blazing a trail and going beyond what is normal, that is the spirit of a nation. That is how you build a nation, out of a dream.”


Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

Updated 21 September 2018
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Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child. He says it used to be a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which the increase in people traveling means standout sites — particularly small ones — get overwhelmed by crowds. As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.
“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbor in the shadows of the stone city walls.
On a typical day there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets. He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”
The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.
The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience.”
It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for “Game of Thrones” combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
It advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day. The plan still has to be implemented, however.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.
But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers.” The success of the Croatian national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup, where it reached the final, helped bring new tourists new tourists.
Vlasic said that over 800,000 tourists visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6 percent increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays were up 4 percent to 3 million.
The cruise ships pay the city harbor docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops.
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need.”
The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.
“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Djuricic says. “Where are these people running to?“