TRAVEL UPDATE - Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - November 20, 2014 - 12:00am

As we are well into the "ber" months, our vacation mode is on high-gear, Christmas notwithstanding. Many families have confirmed their travel dates months ago...some, even almost a year ago! Contrary to traditional expectations, the Filipino family now get out of the country for the holidays. Some even brave the winter chill in such "Currier & Yves" destinations as Vermont (USA), Prague (Czechoslovakia), or Bern (Switzerland)...or nearer home in Osaka (Japan) and Jeju Island (Korea). Because that's how it is:  the tropical islanders yearn for the frozen landscapes, while the fur-cocooned inhabitants of temperate zones dream of white sand beaches that sizzle with year-round fun in the sun.

Following the trend, may I share an update sent to me by my good friend Dave de Jesus, an Iceland passport holder, who has come up with tantalizing packages for those with Eskimo ancestors around here.

According to Dave: "Iceland is about 31/2 hours away from Scandinavia or about 21/2 - 3 hours away from the United Kingdom. It's just 5 hours flying time from New York's JFK International Airport (through the North Atlantic route). We have come to know Iceland as the Land of the Midnight Sun. It has 37 volcanoes, most of them active and some of the biggest in the world! Of course, glaciers are scattered all over the country.  Hence, Iceland is also known as the Land of Fire & Ice."

We Filipinos go "where wise men fear to tread" so it is not surprising to know that 8% of Iceland's current population is Filipino. Due to its unique terrain, like New Zealand, it has become the favorite location site for shooting movies and television productions, like "Oblivion", "The Game of Thrones," and the upcoming blockbuster "Noah."

Dave shares: "Reykjavik is the capital with a population of 200,000, designated as a UNESCO City of Literature. Iceland's current population of only 312,000 reflects a melting pot for countries like Poland, Lithuania, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam."  Ever wonder why it earned the distinction as one of the World's Happiest Countries in 2013? (If there are Filipinos, Thais & Vietnamese around, wouldn't smiles proliferate in no time?)

Dave further discloses: "I find pure Icelandic water the best and safest in the world.  You can actually drink ice-cold tap water or get natural steamy hot water for bathing, as Iceland -- with its volcanoes -- is replete with geothermal energy.

"It has an efficient transport system that operates like clockwork from 6am until midnight, around Reykjavik.  Except on Sundays when they start at noon. Transport is always on time and a ride costs about US$3.00 per way. Taxi limos are more expensive and costs from US$20.00, depending on distance and time of day.'

Having lived in Iceland, Dave can well recommend places and food that we can relate to. Laugavegi (pronounced, loy-ga-ve-yi) is the street for shopping and eating. He recommends a local hotdog sandwich called Pylsur (pronounced, pil-sur).  Order with everything on it for about US$4.00. He says, "Well worth every penny. Maybe you can even go for seconds. I can proudly say that it's the best hotdog I have ever eaten! Their restaurants also serve the freshest seafood catch of the day, as well as the best lamb cuts in the world. A good meal can cost from US$40.00/person for 2 courses (seafood or pasta) and $60.00 and above for a choice of meat dishes. Alcohol and cigarettes are expensive, so best to buy these at the duty free shop before you exit customs. There are some fastfood joints but Mc Donald's closed down some years back as the country's population can't sustain a large international food chain."

The combination of Iceland and Greenland is a doable tour, but Dave recommends booking a year in advance as Greenland has limited accommodation facilities. Iceland is quite popular during Aurora Boreales (Northern Lights) season from October to March.

Going frozen, anyone? Contact Dave de Jesus (0916-3536545 or 0925-3284335; email:

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