Angola rising: tourism is next

angola rising

I spent last week in Portugal‘s Azores, absorbing the rhythms of daily life on Flores, Europe’s westernmost island. An unexpected discovery was the ongoing focus on Angola in the Portuguese media. Evidence of the rise of Angola as an economic power is everywhere.

First off, Portuguese people are moving to the former Portuguese colony in droves. Back in 2010 there was an interesting article by François Musseau in the French newspaper Libération about Angola’s magnetic appeal to skilled Portuguese workers. Musseau’s article points out that skilled Portuguese workers can make three times as much money in Angola than in Portugal. While life in Angola might not always be easy, Musseau suggests, the payoff in terms of salary and career development is high. More recently, a BBC article from this past December also documents the Portuguese exodus to Angola.

The flow of workers doesn’t appear to be leveling off. The current issue of newsweekly Visão features an article on superior economic environments for skilled workers hoping to escape Portugal’s economic crisis. Angola is one of a handful of countries listed – and the only one of the bunch in Africa – next to rich countries like Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.

“The future starts here,” says the billboard of an Angolan bank, Banco BAI, at a prime spot at Lisbon’s international airport. This statement appears to be true for Angola in many ways. A number of different stories over the last few months have observed that Angolan investors are busy buying up Portugal’s businesses and newly privatized state assets in a postcolonial reversal.This is all particularly remarkable given Angola’s recent history. The country suffered through a truly horrific civil war from 1975 until 2002. Ten years ago Angola was just emerging from the rubble. This article on Angola in 2002 describes an extremely impoverished, shellshocked country limping to normalcy.

While most Angolans remain very poor today, oil and diamonds have generated incredible wealth. A domestic middle class is finding its feet. Tourism will surely follow the emergence of a consumer class. And, in point of fact, Angola’s tourism boom has already begun. To give one example, the current issue of Angolan business magazine Rumo reports that over 300 new hotel rooms will open in March in the northwestern province of Uíge.

More decisive evidence can be glimpsed in the March issue of Up, TAP Portugal’s in-flight magazine. The issue is devoted to Angola with a collection of features spanning two dozen pages. There is an exciting hotel primer, which includes an architectural classic in Lobito’s Hotel Terminus as well as the very slick Epic Sana in Luanda.

At the heart of the themed issue is a dossier titled “10 Angola Basics.” Within, beautiful images are paired with scores of exciting destinations: the city of Benguela; the beaches of Restinga, Ilha do Mussulo, and Lobito; national parks in Bengo, Cunene, and Malange; and the rainforests of Cabinda. Aesthetically very striking, the dossier of articles serves as an irresistible catalog of a country in dramatic flux. With a growing middle class and an increasing number of vacation-ready foreign workers living in the country, it is clear that that Angola’s tourism potential has just barely been tapped.

Photo of the day – Lisbon’s winter light

lisbon's winter light

Is Lisbon’s winter light a cure for the blues of the dark season?

It’s right about this time in the Northern Hemisphere that winter starts to feel like an imposition. It’s not getting measurably warmer, and even though it’s been getting lighter for almost two months, it’s not light enough, darn it. Not at all.

This is the time of year when it’s easy to forget that winter’s thin light can also very beautiful. Flickr user t3mujin reminds of this fact with the above Lisbon street scene, snapped in December just before the winter solstice. He nails the beauty of Lisbon’s winter light wonderfully, anchoring the image in the gaze of the lovers casting shadows on the street.

Upload your images of winter light to Flickr’s Gadling Group Pool. We choose our favorites from the pool to be Photos of the Day.

“iPads in every stateroom,” says one cruise line

iPads in every stateroomIn a bold move, Royal Caribbean International announced today the addition of “iPads in every stateroomon board onboard Splendour of the Seas, undergoing dry dock refurbishment right now.

“Based on consumer research, we added the iPads to greatly enhance guest communication, interactivity and to continue to offer industry leading technology that helps enhance the guest experience,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International.

Embracing technology and staying current is nothing new for Royal Caribbean International. Not long ago, sister-line Celebrity Cruises introduced a new iPhone app that represented a natural evolution of their programming, welcoming a new generation of cruise passenger. A Celebrity iLounge is a popular gathering place. As an Authorized Apple Reseller, some ships have a retail area where guests can try out and buy various Apple products and accessories plus an “enrichment center” that offers classes on the iLife suite of programs and other general topics.

On Splendour of the Seas, iPad’s will empower guests with an additional medium by which to receive and use information on their cruise vacation. Guests will be able to access the daily Cruise Compass shipboard newsletter of events and activities, personal daily itineraries and shore excursions, monitor their onboard account, order room service, view restaurant menus, access the Internet and watch movies. The iPads will be available beginning mid-February 2012 on Splendour of the Seas before being extended to all Vision-class ships when each undergoes revitalization in the following two years.

The iPads will offer guests the opportunity to access all of that information not only from their staterooms, but through the ship-wide WIFI system wherever they go onboard.

In addition to the iPads, upgraded Splendour of the Seas will also have new stateroom amenities such as flat screen televisions, new bathrooms, and completely remodeled interiors, including luxurious new linens and furniture, as well as an additional 124 balconies. The ship also will be outfitted with the digital wayfinding technology that can be found on the line’s acclaimed Oasis-class ships.

Upon completion of the refurbishments, Splendour of the Seas will sail a trans-Atlantic voyage on November 25 from Lisbon, Portugal to her seasonal home port of Sao Paulo (Santos), Brazil. From there, she will offer a variety of South American itineraries that take advantage of the summer season in Brazil.

Flickr photo by Chirantan Patnaik

Video: surfer rides 90 foot wave in Portugal, breaks world record

It’s one thing to go to the beach to catch some waves in Portugal, but it’s an entirely different thing to catch a 90 foot wave successfully, breaking a world record. And that’s just what surfer, Garrett McNamara, did. McNamara broke the world record for the longest wave ever surfed when he caught this 90 foot wave off the coast of Portugal. The largest wave claimed to have been surfed before this one was 80 feet, and there’s no solid documentation to back up that the 80 foot surf actually happened. Although little documentation, other than this video above, has been released regarding McNamara’s feat, as far as I’m concerned, this little video clip above is pretty decent documentation. Watch this video if you’d like to sit in awe for a minute or if you’re simply interested in scoping just how big some of those waves off of Portugal’s coast can get.

How to Surf for Fitness

10 unique modes of transportation around the world

chicken busCars, trains, buses, and planes aren’t the only way to get around a country. From the Bamboo Train in Cambodia to the Rail Cart in the the Philippines to the Couch Bike in Canada, here are ten unique modes of transportation from around the world.

Chicken Bus
Guatemala, Central America

While variations of the chicken bus can be found in many different countries (this reminds me a lot of taking the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa), this vehicle is used not only to transport people but also livestock, hence the name. These U.S. school buses are very eye-catching as they are colorfully painted and decorated. When taking one expect cramped conditions, as chicken buses tend to be packed to capacity, and hectic driving at Nascar speeds.Sled Dogs
Alaska, USA

Sled dogs are highly trained dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, which is a vehicle without wheels that glides over snow and ice. If you need a mental image, think Santa being pulled by reindeer, only you’re not flying and there are dogs instead of deer. Endurance and speed are the two main qualities that sled dogs must possess, and this transportation type has become a popular winter sport in other countries around the world such as Japan and Germany.

human powered rickshawHuman Powered Rickshaws
Kyoto, Japan

While urbanization across Asia has mostly done away with this traditional form of transportation, you can still find them used in certain areas where cars are not accessible in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in some parts of India. According to Kelvin Lim of BootsnAll, many rickshaw “drivers” wear a special foot-glove that helps them travel through various types of terrain without slipping.

India and Asia

In India and many places in South East Asia, an elephant is not only an animal but also a mode of transport. When I was Vietnam I actually went on an elephant ride with a local school owner named Roy who explained to me that “in many Asian countries we use animals to help with labor”. While once used to carry the wealthy around, today exploring a country on the back of an elephant is a big tourist attraction.

habal habal Habal Habal
Philippines, Asia

The Habal Habal is a unique motorcycle that can seat many people. The simpler versions seat 4-5 people, with a seat that extends over the back wheel, while the more complex type of Habal Habal can seat up to thirteen people and their luggage with the addition of wooden planks acting as benches.

Rail Cart
Philippines, Southeast Asia

The rail cart is most commonly found in the Philippines and is literally a cart that is pulled along rail tracks by a person, people, or a horse. The special wheels on the cart allow for quick transport but, unfortunately, are not always fast enough to get out of the way of the real trains that also use the tracks.

reed boatsReed Boat
Lake Titicana, Peru

Lake Titicana stretches across the countries of Peru and Bolivia and is home to many floating villages around Southern Peru. These villages are inhabited by the Uro people, who use natural resources, like reed, to construct homes and boats. The boats are light but resiliant and, built in the shape of a dragon, are said to have been used by the anicent Incas to ward off evil spirits.

Camel Back
Jordan, Middle East

While there are many places where camel rides are popular, one way to try out this transport option for yourself is by trekking through the beautiful rose colored deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Cairo, Dubai, Mongolia, Morocco, and many deserts in India are also known for being camel riding hotspots.

couch bikeCouch Bike

When I found this highly unusual mode of transportation, I was kind of expecting it to be from America. The Couch Bike, which is literally a couch that you pedal like a bike, pokes fun at sedentary culture while providing an eco-friendly alternative to driving. Just make sure you know the traffic laws of the city you’ll be riding in, as the vehicle may not be legal to drive in all areas.

Monte Toboggan Ride
Madeira, Portugal

This unique transport mode is only for the adventureous. Once a popular mode of transport in the 1800’s-early 1900’s, it is a big tourist attraction today in Madeira. Passengers sit in a wicker or wooden tobaggan and ride down the mountain from Monte to Funchal. While an exhilerating experience, you don’t have to worry too much about crashing as there are two locals “steering” the vehicle from the outside. It’s kind of like being a kid again and having your parents pull you around in a sled, only your parents probably weren’t yanking you down a steep mountain with winding turns.