Thursday, October 31, 2013

Understanding and appreciating Tanzania

Tonight was the most unlikely time to be thinking about life and other serious things.

But in Manila, living a Travelife, there I was going home from a children's Halloween party, listening to the radio and thinking about the last few weeks and the next few months.

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Not keen on trick or treating ourselves, some friends and I had brainstormed a very interesting project for next year over a delicious dinner of baked salmon and other goodies, including an irresistible sansrival.

This is very exciting, and even now, as I write this, my heart is skipping a beat thinking about it again.


Then, I found myself also thinking about my most recent trip, which involved two weeks of adventure and new experiences in Tanzania. 

I had wonderful company -- amusing and comfortable at the same time, as we generally like the same things, although there was one hotel on our trip that we had very different opinions about.

This certainly made for endless conversations over dinner.

But that was probably the only point of contention -- that and the fact that he beat me at chess twice.


Otherwise, we have an eerie similarity of likes and dislikes, especially for two people who could not be more apart.

In fact, I was sufficiently confident of my knowledge of the Travel Companion's preferences, that I actually pre-ordered a meal for both of us onboard Qatar Airways as he slept soundly beside.

We didn't want dinner, but we certainly needed breakfast about eight hours later; and I was sure we both wanted a hodgepodge of everything from the dinner and breakfast choices, rather than the standard set meals of either.

So I got us the Arabic mezze from dinner to start, and the Arabic bean soup from breakfast to continue, and rooibos tea to down everything with.


Meanwhile, the Tanzania trip itself was generally all about happy and rather exciting days with no tomorrows.

This is probably most appropriate, as Tanzania is best savored in the present and not compared to the past or the future.

You must live in the moment to appreciate and understand it, with all its complexities and limitations.


In fact, I now understand that you must truly learn to savor only the moment, to appreciate the complexities and limitations of everything in life, from destinations to people.

This has generally always been my philosophy on life; but never was this more tested, in recent memory, than on this trip to Tanzania.

Tanzania is really the sixth world, rather than the third world or even the fourth world, and so I quickly realized it was unfair to compare it to any reality I had so far known.

There can be no comparisons, as these will either just be inaccurate or disappointing.


This trip took me out of my comfort zone, but not in an unpleasant way.

In fact, I feel I'm way more of a better person now, after Tanzania, because of the things I'd seen, the people I'd met, and the stuff I'd been able to get myself to do.

I understand more about the world, and also more about myself.

I'd also been to the ends of the earth -- the last bastion of wilderness in Africa, as some had called it -- and survived to tell tales about it, after all.

All about extraordinary Tanzania in the 
December 2013 - January 2014 issue of Travelife Magazine.

Read more about our Travelife to Tanzania, and the experience that went beyond simply seeing wildlife, in the December 2013 - January 2014 issue of Travelife Magazine, the leading travel and lifestyle publication.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More photos from the hilarious Rob Schneider stand-up comedy show at Solaire last night

With Rob Schneider and Solaire COO Thomas Arasi,
after Rob's show 

Even I can't believe that I woke up in the relatively blissful peace of a beautiful boutique hotel by the sea in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania the other day -- and then I finally went to bed in Manila after the very successful Rob Schneider stand-up comedy show at Solaire Resort last night.

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And somewhere in between waking up in Dar es Salaam and going to bed in Manila, we had a very nice last lunch in Tanzania at a place called Cape Town Fishmarket.


It was simple but chic, with good seafood and a stylish vibe.

Cape Town Fishmarket is perhaps the best place to eat and hang out in Dar es Salaam, and it was full of expatriates that day.


We shared everything, and we ordered lobster, fish and chips, and assorted Japanese sushi to start.

And then finished off with an incredibly good brownie topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

The coast of Tanzania is famous for lobsters, and so we ordered lobsters whenever we saw it on the menu.


After lunch, we went back to our hotel to pack, and then it was off to Doha on Qatar Airways, to connect with the flight to Manila.

Upon landing in Manila, it was literally straight to Solaire Resort to catch the preparations for the Rob Schneider comedy show that Travelife Magazine partnered with Solaire Resort and Establish Events to produce.


We had a full house of nearly 2000 people last night, and everyone was laughing from Minute 1.

The front acts were great, and Rob Schneider really brought the house down.

He had two standing ovations at the end.

Emcee: Eri Neeman
Front acts: Mike Unson and Alex Calleja

After the show, Solaire's new COO, Thomas Arasi, and myself, went backstage to say hello to Rob. We'd all enjoyed the show and I'd laughed way more than I had ever expected to do so.

So a day that began with a blissful morning in Tanzania ended with with a hilarious and frenetic evening in Manila, as always living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rob Schneider brought the house down at Solaire. And the perfect way to end a Travelife to Tanzania.

I can't believe that the last 36 hours spanned at least three continents, six meals, and way too many interesting things, even in a never-ending Travelife.

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I woke up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after three safari experiences and an island holiday, and finally went to bed in Manila after a night spent laughing at the Rob Schneider stand-up comedy show for Travelife Magazine at Solaire resort in Manila.

The last 36 hours began in the bustling African town of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, although we never felt it, as we'd stayed over at a lovely boutique hotel right by the sea in the best part of town.

It was quiet and peaceful where we were.


This boutique hotel was a genuine find.

It had only eight rooms, and it was really more of a house than a hotel. 

Everything was simply but beautifully done  -- from the interiors of the public rooms and the bedrooms, to the meals.

Most people who stay at this quietly luxurious hotel do so on full board, and so did we.

So we had one rather late lunch, one very nice dinner, and one satisfyingly healthy breakfast.


All meals were taken on a terrace facing a garden with a swimming pool and a very large tree, reminding us of old-style houses in New Manila.

It was very comfortable and relaxing, and it was the perfect way to end a pretty wonderful two weeks in Tanzania, living a Travelife.

Not that there is a perfect way to end a nice holiday.


So many things were waiting back home and ending a holiday is a part of a Travelife.

But since we flew out of Dar es Salaam on the long way back to Asia, I couldn't help feeling rather sad about it all. This melancholy feeling continued even after returning to Manila.

Fortunately, I literally had no time to be sad.


That's Rob Schneider, reading Travelife Magazine...

From the airport, I went home to drop my bags.

Then off I went to Solaire Resort to join the rest of the Travelife team and our valued partners for the Rob Schneider stand-up comedy show tonight.

When I got to Solaire, the lobby was already teeming with people, including many celebrities who had come to watch Rob Schneider in action.


Our hardworking Travelife team and the teams of our partners had everything immaculately set-up, and things were going like clockwork.

Yes, I'd been in Tanzania on a Travelife for two weeks, during which we'd released our latest issue and organized three major events

Almost everything had been done without me, as I was in Africa chasing black rhinos, in places with slow Internet connection.

I'd even lost my phone on the first day of my holiday, which is half a bad thing and half a good thing. But it's also meant I've been almost incommunicado for the last two weeks.

We truly have the best magazine team in town.

Everyone at Travelife Magazines works incredibly hard, and does an amazing job.


And what a fun evening we had at Solaire Resort, watching Rob Schneider's stand-up comedy show.

Even I had underestimated how much Rob Schneider would make me laugh.

"Great show. Rob Schneider had us in stitches."
- comment on Facebook

Sitting in the third row, I was giggling the whole night.

Meanwhile many of my friends, who were seated with me in the same row, were holding their sides, almost bursting with laughter.


Rob Schneider with a loyal fan.
Can you see what he's written on a large sign?

In fact, the entire ballroom of 2000 people were laughing practically the whole night.

It was a great way to return to Manila, seated amidst friends and laughing the entire evening at the jokes and antics of a top Hollywood comedian.

So maybe there is a less than imperfect way to end a holiday after all. At least in a never-ending Travelife.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The safari plane experience in Tanzania

The other day in Tanzania, living a Travelife, we flew from the Serengeti National Park to Zanzibar.

If you've ever traveled around East Africa, you'll know that the main way to get around is via a series of small planes, usually fitting 8 to 10 people maximum.

It's not the best way to travel, but it's really the only way, unless you want to spend hours on bumpy roads.


So we've become the small plane experts on this two–week trip around Tanzania

Upon our arrival, in fact, we got the full–blown safari plane experience via a series of small planes to the edge of the Selous, which is the largest and most remote game reserve in the entire Africa.


We landed in Dar es Salaam, and then we were met by a company we contracted to deal with all our domestic logistics. They drove us to the terminal for the safari charter flights, about three kilometers away.

From there, it was a bit of a wait. 

There was nothing much to do in the terminal and we didn't have any local money, so we couldn't buy anything. Not that there was much to buy here. But you get the picture.

Finally, our flight was called. 

We were booked for the Sumbazi airstrip, but we had to land and take off at about five other remote airstrips before getting there. 


That was quite an experience, especially as the airstrips were all dirt road and the planes are small.

But they're not as bad as I thought. I managed without problems.


But the other day, we were preparing ourselves for a very long series of flights on a small plane, from the Seronera airstrip in the Serengeti to Zanzibar. The worst–case scenario was a series of short hops over three or four hours. 

That's no joke on a tiny plane.

But what luck we had that day. 

When we reached Seronera airstrip, we happily learned that our airline had sent us a fast and modern plane that could go up to 25,000 feet in a pressurized cabin

It was still a small plane, but it cut our flying time by half.

The best part was that it had suddenly become a direct flight between Serengeti and Zanzibar. That certainly made our day.


I'd even ordered a boxed lunch from the Four Seasons Serengeti for us, just to have something to do on the long plane ride. 

But now, with the kind of luck that always seems to pop up in a Travelife, we were going to reach Zanzibar in time for a proper lunch.

What a pleasant flight it was. And from the air, I marveled at the clear blue waters and the islands of Africa.

And by just past 1 PM, there we were, by a beautiful beach in The Residence, a five–star resort in Zanzibar, enjoying fresh coconut juice, club sandwiches and grilled fish for lunch. 

And living a Travelife, of course.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ultimate comfort in Tanzania's Serengeti, at the Four Seasons Serengeti

Good afternoon from beautiful Tanzania, living a never–endingly eventful Travelife.

We started today at the lovely Four Seasons Serengeti, a very new property and the first Four Seasons property in Africa.

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We had a wonderful breakfast with a view of the plains and mountains of the Serengeti, and countless wild animals grazing all over.

It was delicious and surreal at the same time.


Breakfast itself was great – just my type. 

They had a fresh vegetable and juice bar where you could pick your own combinations, and everything good from smoked salmon to freshly–baked pastries.

We sat at a table right by the giant windows, for a last look at the Serengeti as we had breaakfast.


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March 2016
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The Four Seasons Serengeti is contemporary in feel and extremely comfortable, especially after a day out in the wilderness. 

I loved coming back to this hotel and feeling so relaxed, after hours and hours of driving around the Serengeti National Park, looking for everything from hippos to the elusive cheetah.

Yes, after four very different but equally exciting and interesting safari experiences, we've seen everything by now except the cheetah. 

That's still on our bucket list.

But on the way to the airport today, we saw a leopard sleepily lazing on a tree branch

This is an iconic image of a leopard, but it's quite hard to see in real-life.

It was a great way to end a truly wonderful stay at the Four Seasons Serengeti, living a never–endingly eventful Travelife.