Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Sneeker Waterpoort (Sneek Watergate) in Friesland, Netherlands

There is not much information available about Sneek’s medieval water port or gateway (located in Sneek, Friesland in the north of the Netherlands). It was believed that the port was built around 1492 by an unknown architect and its primary function was to control the water flowing into the town. Back then cities and towns are built around thick stone walls for protection from enemy invasion, and in the Netherlands because of its quagmire topography, they make use of the water as moats, serving an additional line of defence.

I saw this poem engraved on a block of stone, written in Fries by Marcel van der Meulen on the trattoir just beside the water port. Fries is a language spoken in the northern part of the Netherlands, primarily in the Friesland province where Sneek is a part of. It is a bit similar to Dutch of course so I can understand some of it (written but not spoken) but not all.

Here is my meagre English translation (in Fries or Dutch they actually rhyme but not in English, too bad):

Butter, bread and milk in our cup
Who cannot say this is not a real Sneker
I am though, because I live in the Water Port
There in ‘hewwe jim’ it was heard (this line I am having a hard time translating, help!)
It is a very old building that I adore
Boats, canals and the city
Sneek will always be my biggest love

And here are a few more fotos of the famous Sneeker Waterpoort:

In Madurodam (The Hague), the mini-Holland park or the smallest city in the Netherlands, there is a little replica of the Sneeker Waterpoort, scaled down to 1:25. I think I even have a foto of it, hmm, need to search my archives. Other replicas are to be found in China (Holland Village in Shenyang), Japan (Huis ten Bosch in Nagasaki) and Denmark (Legoland in Billund).

Many say that the Sneeker Waterpoort, one of the great examples of medieval architecture, is the Netherlands most beautiful water gateway. I quite agree.

Travel Period: October 2010
Destination: Sneek (Friesland), The Netherlands

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Santa Fe Beaches, Bantayan Island

The road to Bantayan Island is long, and I mean really loooooooooooong. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the easiest islands in the Philippine archipelago to get to, perhaps, the reason why it appeals, well sometimes, to adventurous travellers like me.

There are a few ways to get to Bantayan Island but they only come by land and sea. Bantayan Island actually has a small airfield and the reason why it is left to rot is, well, you can surmise, that certain individuals want some grease but helaas are not getting it. If the airport in Bantayan Island is further developed and opened commercially to the public, I am sure this is going to be the next Boracay. It has lots of potential.

Anyway, we chose the land and sea combi option, which is the best choice as you get there faster. I think the drive from Cebu City to Hagnaya, San Remigio took about 4 hours. It’s amazing to see how traffic has developed in Cebu when back then there were very few vehicles on the streets, this was some 25 to 30 years ago when we regularly go on road trips to the north. And on the way we saw 2 accidents! A big lorry truck went down the ravine and a small truck carrying water jugs drove straight to a tree. The roads are good but the more north you drive, the more crisscrossed the roads are which is dangerous when you drive too fast. Some drivers never learn at all.

So we finally arrived at Hagnaya port where we bought our boat tickets and in the process gotten bombarded by aggressive porters (baggage helpers) which I thought was unnecessary as we have 3 abled men who can more than handle all our baggage but I guess these people need to earn a living as well. The boat trip to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island took an hour, it was uneventful and luckily the waves were calm.

We stayed in Santa Fe. The town is probably the most developed area in Bantayan for tourism. Aside from the pier which is very handy as it is nearby, you can find several modest accommodations, facilities, restaurants and shops in town. Here is a quick map reference of Santa Fe (click) on resorts, restaurants and entertainment. For more information on holidaying in Bantayan Island, go here: (its a personal/commercial site but it has the best information on the island so far where the department of tourism has failed to deliver)

All fotos were taken on different days so some have blue skies while others have cloudy skies. Top to bottom: A surfer patiently waiting for that little wave to come; two fishermen fishing on the shores, that was a first for me to see something like this; and some beach shore and boat scenes.

More beach scenes here:

Top to bottom: Fisherman tinkering on his boat and I just like the idea of the colourful laundry hanging beside his boat tent; more beach shore line fotos and moi in a restaurant on the beach; on the last foto on the right you can see an islet called Hilataga-an Island.

I am sure the beaches are lovelier, clearer, bluer during the summer season. We were there in July, not really the best time to go as it is rainy season in the tropics.

And here are more of the barrio scenes:

Top to bottom: Typical scene in the barrio, a trike driver taking a nap; sari-sari store; more trike drivers waiting for customers, sometimes they pester you to great lengths; barbecue scenes on the corner street of the main road; fresh coconut drink; pawnshops thrive in the provinces in the Philippines and the island have implemented their green environment program.

Top to bottom: Historical Spanish pre-war house that badly needs a face lift; 2 girls climbing to get some biyatilis/ipil-ipil fruit; house with pretty patchwork, banana tree with a banana cluster and banana heart/inflorescence hanging at the tip; Philippine flag; schoolgirl in the tricycle; vendors outside the school and school girls cleaning the street; halo-halo iced snack and chili crab; proud rooster; fresh catch of the day - take your pick and they will cook it for you; and us chilling the night with San Miguel beer.

Travel Period: July 2009

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bantayan Church, the Market and the Tricycle Ride

We stayed in one of the modest resorts in Santa Fe with the whole family. Bantayan Island is quite raw when it comes to accommodations and tourism as a whole, which appeals to me in an egalitarian way as I am quite tired of the same hotel-type exclusive resorts I see invading Mactan Island in Cebu. I don’t go for a holiday to lock myself up inside the resort (I can do this at home!), I want to explore the place.

So we decided to do some little outing by checking out the capital of the island named after itself, Bantayan, and go for some ‘bulad’ (dried fish) shopping as well. The island is known as one of the largest dried fishes producers in the Philippines so me and my mom were quite excited for this little side trip.

‘How do we get there?’, we asked the woman at the reception of the resort.

‘By tricycle and it’s about half an hour ride.’

Funnily, the whole family kind of enjoyed the little tricycle ride. It’s one of those things that they rarely experience so it strikes a sense of discomfort and adventure into their cosy metropolitan lives, even for just a thirty minute journey and back. Me and my sister were busy filming the whole time, haha.

We made it to the public market in Bantayan but helaas there were not enough selection of dried fishes on sale, as we would have thought. It appears that 99% of dried fishes produced in the island are directly transported on boats to mainland Cebu and other parts of the country, leaving very little for the locals.

There was also a mass going on in Bantayan Church and I managed to shoot a few fotos inside. The church was built in 1839 and completed in 1863 so I guess that makes the church as one of the oldest in the country.

Here are the fotos:

Communion time, notice the women are wearing lace veils. I seldom see this in the country but since Bantayan is very rural, the women still practice this habit.

The Church of Bantayan is made of corral stones. The Philippines is one of the devout Roman Catholic countries in the world where the church still has power over its people. Many religiously go to church on Sundays.

Danggit (rabbit fish) is the queen of all dried fishes in the Philippines. It is so celebrated that many restaurants and fastfood chains in the country offer this as breakfast.

Dried fish is not only popular in the Philippines but it is eaten and served all over Asia.

A road side store selling nipa (a tropical palm type), used for roofing houses.

More market scenes: a shopping alley, a street side eatery, and tropical vegetable and fruits: sayote (green), santol (yellow) and coconut.

Travel Period: July 2009
Destination: Bantayan Island (Cebu - Visayas Region), The Philippines

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