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.”


Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

Luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers. (bulgarihotels.com)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

  • The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island
  • Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic

DUBAI: Bulgari, the venerated Italian design house, has just five hotels around the world. And even in Dubai — a city crammed with luxury hotels — the Bulgari Resort manages to seem exclusive. The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island, offering guests some respite from the city’s often-hectic atmosphere, even though it is literally minutes away from the pulsing heart of Dubai.

Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic. Master architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel — who are responsible for all the Bulgari hotels worldwide — have used a neutral color palette and custom motifs, such as coral-inspired lacquered steel parapets and mashrabiya-patterned accents, to give the hotel a sense of place.

Here, luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers, with fine materials — from Italian marble to sumptuous silks, impeccable attention to detail, and touches including the signature fragrance that wafts around you from the second you enter.

The hotel is responsible for a couple of firsts for the brand, including its ‘Little Gems’ kids club — where children are entertained with bespoke activities such as cooking classes and treasure hunts while their parents enjoy some downtime — and the global debut of the Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club, which has its own pool and recreation facilities, signature seafood restaurant, and 50-berth harbor.

All rooms and suites feature a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, smooth one-touch button controls, and bathrooms with standalone tubs boasting enviable views — making for some excellent Insta-fodder. The signature trunk-style mini-bar is as funky as it is functional, and the trendy basket beach bags are perfect for stashing your souvenirs — including designer knick-knacks from on-site concept store La Galleria.

The one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas offer private pools and butler service, but you don’t want to miss the resort’s circular central pool, where luxury cabanas with oversized daybeds and on-call service invite you to lounge the day away. Just adjacent is the crescent-shaped private beach, with the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf offering perfect swimming conditions, even if the tip of the seahorse-shaped island mars the view slightly.

Whether you opt for a beach-and-pool day or a Dubai-sightseeing trip, your evening should definitely be devoted to the quintessentially Italian aperitivo experience at Il Bar, where an oval-shaped chrome counter provides a social centerpiece, and an outdoor terrace offers marina views. The seriously chic Il Ristorante (by lauded Italian chef Niko Romito) is just next door, and shares the terrace. Its tiramisu is one of the best in town, as is the freshly baked rustic bread.

Offering a more pared-back dining experience are La Spiaggia, a beachside restaurant and bar, and Il Café, the Bulgari take on a casual all-day dining destination which still features jaw-dropping design, and, in line with the whole ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service ethos, serves breakfast all day.

That ethos extends to the spa too, where therapists provide the ultimate in pampering using top-shelf products, including La Mer, in a soothing nature-inspired space. The use of rare precious materials, including grey Vicenza stone and green onyx, infuse the environment with a subtle opulence.

A 25-meter indoor swimming pool with its own cabanas, extensive facilities (including a shower offering a “Caribbean thunderstorm” experience), and private hammam, plus an exclusive Lee Mullins training program at the state-of-the-art gym complete the impressive recreation facilities at the resort.

If you’re looking for a classy, authentic ‘slice-of-Italy’ experience in the Middle East, then the Bulgari Resort Dubai is where you should check in.