Friday, July 25, 2008

Manila airport dispute: After 6 years!

OMG – I couldn’t believe this news! Should I say FINALLY?!

Foto courtesy of

After 6 years (international) flights begin at Manila’s Terminal 3 <- click="" in="" jetfotos.="" more="" read="" span="" to="">

The brand new international airport built 6 years ago to replace the decaying and embarrassing old Manila Terminal (NAIA – Ninoy Aquino International Airport) where all the international commercial aircrafts from all over the world land filled with excited tourists and willing investors only to be welcomed by an ancient, rotten, and dingy airport has just been opened. It took 6 full years after completion.

A couple of years ago, I had a business trip with my previous boss here in the Netherlands in Manila and Cebu and I still could not forget his look when we landed passing through the stained moldy corridors to a much disappointing sight in the arrivals to get our bags – Is this the Philippines’ airport? And he had to bloody pay for the trolley but the wheel got stuck because of corrosion while mine made funny rickety noises.

Now, after 6 full years of almost irreconcilable and juvenile disputes between the stuck-up high all-mighty Philippine government and the angered, frustrated and disillusioned international contractors, the brand new unused modern Manila international airport has finally(!!!) been opened but unfortunately the once brand new paint on the building walls has started to fall off... slowly by slowly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pyrgos, once capital of Santorini

Santorini is a very windy island and the motorbike is not really encouraged at all but many locals use this transport because the island is so small and riding around in a motorbike is the easiest and most efficient way of reaching point A to point B.

Right in the middle of the island stands this white mountain and from a distance it looks like a mound of salt or a whipped cream topping. White is theme of this place. A white village. White houses. White roads. White staircases. White walls. Yes, this is a white mountain village and everything is white here.

Moi in sitting in front of a Greek Orthodox Church. On the second foto, the little white crop mountain from a distance is Pyrgos.

So we checked the map to see the name of the village. It says Pyrgos. The little unspoiled white town with 500 inhabitants used to be the capital of Santorini. Upon closer look, I noticed that the stonewalls rounding up the mountain resembles that of a wreckage of an ancient castle. The village was built around the Venetian castle that now lies in ruins.

I did my customary exploration, getting lost in the narrow white winding alleys and being surprised at the pretty architecture in every corner that I turn to. The Dutchman on the other hand followed me obediently until he finally declared he has had enough and will be going back down to the rotunda where the square is located. OK fine. I went up further up, mounting on the steps, always curious what is there above waiting for me =)

While going up, I saw an old man resting, rather sleeping, on the steps leading to the castle ruins. He has 2 donkeys tied to a tree and on the little square he has some products placed on top of the table for sale: house wine, some grappa, and tomatoes as well. He was sleeping soundly like a little baby and I didn’t want to disturb him so I tip-toed passing by slowly.

When I reached the top I realized there was no castle. I mean no physical castle, just ruins and walls, and houses inspired by the Cycladic architecture that were built on the crest and around it. It was quite charming though because the ruins were left on its own, just leaving it as it is side by side with the new occupants.

I also found a café restaurant and a church, and from up there were beautiful views of the plateau. It was a perfect place to sit down and relax. I was actually quite tempted to order a drink and just savour the ambiance, but then I remembered that I am with the Dutchman who is waiting for me down at the rotunda square. Jammer.

Here are some fotos:

Such little door, wonder what its function.

It is very charming here, the little narrow streets and stairs leading to houses and churches.

White everywhere and the plateau towards Kamari, in the southern part of the island

On the right foto is an example of a Cycladic house.

The old man napping on the steps leading to the castle ruins.

His donkeys under the shade.

The old man's little store on the small square, and signs to the castle ruins.

The church on top of the mountain village and touristy souvenir shops.

More fotos of Pyrgos here: Pyrgos - Santorini, Greece

The Dutchman indeed was waiting for me patiently, sitting on the bench and looking like the typical tourist with his straw hat and orange shades. I told him to come follow me because I have something yummy in mind. It is 32C and the sun is glaring madly down at us on our sweaty scalps. We badly need a refreshing treat like a mouthwatering ice cream cone before hopping on the motorbike back to Kamari.

Travel Period: June-July 2008
Destination: Pyrgos (Santorini - Cyclades Islands), Greece

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Megalochori, the little "big village" in Santorini

We rented a scooter and this is what you will see when driving around the island -- white washed houses. I think there is a strict regulation that you cannot paint your house with any color other than white, or any of the pastel colors allowed.

On the way to Perissa which is another beach stretch in Santorini with our Peugeot scooter that looked more like a huge motorbike really, we saw a sign on the main road that said – Greek Traditional Village: Megalochori

I told Dutchman we should go there one day and indeed the next day we did the village visits to Pyrgos which will be my next entry and Megalochori.

The white and quiet narrow alleys of Megalochori. This bell tower gateway gave an authentic and charming feel. The village also has a few churches.

Typical white traditional Cycladic houses in Megalochori with blue doors and windows. Greek salad for snack and this bread is really delicious. I love dipping bread with olive oil mixed with balsamico + salt + pepper.

Megalochori – or Megalohori in Greek means “Big Village” which is a rather blunt euphemistic twist as there are less than 500 resident houses in the village. They, however say that the most powerful families in Santorini used to live here, perhaps shaping, and influencing the name of this little quiet town.

It is also one of the Greek villages in the island that managed to keep its traditional ambience. White-washed houses and architectural features that typifies the archetypal Cycladic house, narrow quiet alleys drenched in white paint, corner streets that leads you to a flight of steps bringing you to yet another narrow alley washed in white, are all available to see, to be explored, and to be experienced when you step inside this immaculate white village.

More fotos of Megalochori can be found here: Megalochori - Santorini, Greece

The pretty church bell tower that also serves as the gateway to the main square of the village where the taverns congregate - that is me by the way standing under the arch gateway in the foto. Next foto is one of the taverns in the square and I love the how the pink bougainvillas hang from the wooden trellis.

The little town is also home to the local fine craft of wine making, a once major economic livelihood in Santorini. Boutaris, the largest and well known wine factory in the island offers educational and cultural wine tours.

I never bothered to drag the unwilling Dutchman to the wine factory, not even to the wine museum near Kamari where we stayed (he already protested before I entertained the thought!) as I knew this would only be a pure, and nothing less, cultural nightmare for him.

Travel Period: July 2008
Destination: Megalochori (Santorini - Cyclades Islands), Greece

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kamari, the Beach

The Black beach of Kamari behind the mountain where the ancient settlement of Thira (Santorinis old name) is situated.

As this was our summer beach holiday, we stayed nearby Kamari Beach in Santorini Island. Due to the island being what now remains from a massive volcanic eruption during the height of the Minoan civilization sometime 3,600 years ago, the beach stones and sand are black. When you dip in the water, you don’t feel stones and sand tingling under your feet but huge slabs of compounded stone that solidified throughout the ages on the shore.

In Kamari, the Greek colors of white and blue are also plenteous. And a picture of a typical Greek Orthodox Church.

The beach is 3-kilometers long filled with parasols and sun beds that can be rented all day. It is located in the south of the island nearby the airport. Everyday, every hour, we could see the planes go down, so near that the beach area is a perfect place to sit down with a glass of cold drink and airplane watch. Otherwise, lounging by the pool or lying down on an airbed on the pool is Dutchman’s idea of perfect enjoyment and relaxation while I keep reminding him its time we visit some little Greek village and partake in the local culture. He frowns on this by the way.

The Kamari Boulevard along the beach coast; a nice place to walk, eat, drink, shop, and be seen during the day, and also at night. It is always busy here even late into the evening after midnight.

What I love with Kamari is the gezellig boulevard; very chic, busy, colorful, and lively at night. The shops bring in a breath of fresh air. Here in Kamari, they are not selling rubbish like in many popular touristy places. However, I noticed that many of the little boutique shops were selling designer labels from the last season or two with 50% discount on the tags. Still, the items were quite expensive when you are talking about prices starting at €1,000 or €500, which gives you already an idea what type of holidaymakers come to Santorini.

Mythos is the local beer brand and this is the famed Greek yoghurt with honey and crushed walnuts. Super yummy! As for the white wine in this picture, it was my worst ever that I swore I would never ever drink house wine from then on. The next day I avoided wine and ordered bitter lemon for dinner. This white wine on the foto totally ruined my wine appetite for 2 days, lol.

Dutchman and I dined in different restaurants every evening which he did not really fancy at all arguing that my cooking at home was way, way better. Hah! Well, I’ve only had seafood the whole time; Greek salads for lunches and Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts too. I always say this every time -- you can never have a great Greek salad or Greek yoghurt outside Greece. The tomatoes here are sweet and crunchy; the onions sweet too?, the yoghurt packed and creamy, and the honey so, so thick. It’s never the same anywhere else.

Menus outside the restaurant - I like how the menu boards are displayed creatively on the roadside.

So the explanation I received from the locals is, it’s because of the dark vulcanic soil and the mineral properties that go with it making the vegetables sweet. And speaking of the subject sweet – the island is also known for its production of sweet white wine. It is interesting to note that the vineyards here are cultivated so low. The vines crawl on the grounds as opposed to climbing on a wooden trellis. The island is so windy (like the coast of the Netherlands) that it is not practical to build vineyard trellises as they will only capsize like what happened to our parasol in the balcony one day. Nowadays wine has become a supplement to the number one industry in the island, tourism.

Going back to dinners, I think the best dinner I had was the grilled tuna in the boulevard. I actually ordered a different seafood dish called Spetsioteko Psari. The waiter who attended to us strikes me as someone who was a bit dodgy said they only serve the dish during winter. He further explained while looking at my frame with sleepy eyes that I would not want to eat it for dinner as it would be too heavy for my stomach. He gave me a grin that totally spoke of -- trust me, I am the waiter or I could be the damn chef so I know! In turn, I asked what he can recommend from the house. He replied confidently, with pride – tuna, we have the best tuna. Alright then, I am taking tuna, grill it, and make it well done for me please... Ah, it was the best seafood dinner, grilled tuna with courgette on the side I ever had in this holiday. Thanks to this dodgy looking waiter.

More pictures of Kamari by night (a few of our dinners and mostly our bar hopping activities):

Pictures of Kamari by day:

In summary, if I were to recommend a beach place to stay, it will be Kamari. Between the 2 busy beaches in Santorini, Perissa (which I will be posting an entry and pictures later) and Kamari – Kamari is the place to be.

Travel Period: July 2008
Destination: Kamari (Santorini - Cyclades Islands), Greece

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Santorini Salad for lunch and more breath taking views of Oia

We had our lunch in Oia. In a lovely tavern overlooking the Caldera.

Santorini salad and yoghurt with honey and walnuts for lunch at the Strogili tavern. I forgot to take fotos of the views down to the caldera from our table.

We ordered the usual Greek yoghurt with honey and we tried a different salad this time—the ‘Santorini Salad’ which was garnished with with fresh spring onions and topped with the local Santorini cheese. I ate them the spring onions gusto because they were chunky and sweet. I thought the feta cheese was a cross between an Emmental and a Comte.

After lunch we were back to trailing the marble and volcanic cobblestone pathways. Oia is just so lovely, you cannot simply tire from adoring it. It is like a fairtytale place during the time of the Greek gods.

Because of its popularity, the little town is literally flooded with tourists. It is nearly impossible to get a good shot without someone sneaking you’re your picture. People are walking everywhere. But as you walk farther from the centre towards the northern tip of the town where the Oia Kastro castle ruins are located, there are less people around. The spectacular sunset in Oia goes down here.

More lovely panoramic views of Oia:

Travel Period: July 2008

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