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RONmania Open 2023

The mahjong association in Romania held their first ever riichi tournament in Bucharest on 27 - 28 May. There were 36 participants in total (2 of whom were substitutes), and 3 players from Denmark: me, Jesper and Eigo. It was the first time in Romania for all of us, which was one of the reasons we decided to join this tournament. Martin H. tagged along with us as a non-competing traveller even though he had been to Romania many times before due to work, so in some way, we brought along an unofficial guide.

So how was it to play and explore in Bucharest?

In this blog post, you can read about:

Travelling to Bucharest from Copenhagen

It was fairly easy to travel direct between Copenhagen and Bucharest with budget airline Wizz. Flight time was around 3.5 hours. We went with the late flight after work on Thursday, 25 May at round 22:40hrs, with arrival at round 02:10 However, due to the lack of flight controllers in that period, our flight was delayed till around midnight, which meant we would only arrive in Bucharest around 03:30hrs. Good thing we had booked an airport hotel that was just 10 minutes away by Uber to spend the night in.

Transportation in Bucharest

Rule number 1: do NOT take taxis! That was the advise we received from our seasoned Romania traveller and unofficial guide, Martin. Apparently, taxis are much more expensive than Ubers such that even the locals do take Uber, so the first thing we did when we walked out the airport was to order ourselves an Uber to get us to our hotel.

Was it easy to Uber? Yes! The app is very well-made, so thumbs up to that, and we normally get a driver picking us up in under 5 minutes no matter what time of the day it was. However, when our airport Uber driver arrived, he looked at our party of 4 and said to us, "I cannot take you. You are 4 people." We responded in confusion, "Yes, yes, we booked a car that said it could take 4 people." He insisted, "No, no, I cannot take 4 people." Like, what the duck? He literally had 4 seats in his car, so why was he making a fuss at freakin' 04:00hrs in the morning?! We said again, that we were 4 people and we had booked a car that said it could take 4 people. He then said, "I am the 4th one, so I can only take 3 people."

Right... . We didn't know how to argue against that because we were rather confused about what it really meant when the app indicated that the car was for 4 people, so we just told him fine, we'll just cancel the trip and pay the cancellation fee. We then decided to walk to our hotel in the early morning (around to 20 mins walk) rather than wait for the airport-hotel shuttle bus which would come in 20 mins. Roosters were already cockle-doodling as we approached our hotel.

The next morning, I decided to find out what it really meant in Uber when it says the car's for 4 people. Does it include the driver? As it turned out, NO! The driver was not included, so that Uber driver could have taken us in his car. Good thing we were able to get back our cancellation fee from Uber after giving the feedback to them that it was the driver who refused to take us.

Apart from that incident, the rest of our Uber trips went smoothly, and we had no other issues booking cars for 4 people. That was good, because we definitely needed to get an Uber to the tournament venue from the old town / city centre where we were staying at for the rest of our trip.

Food in Bucharest

I don't consider myself a foodie, but I do like to fine dine every now and then. You can definitely do this too in Bucharest, and do it affordably! For our first evening, we wined and dined at a restaurant just a 10 minutes' walk from our hotel called, "The Artist". It was one of the 50 Best Discovery restaurants in the world, Food was very well presented and delicious, and the wine pairing was perfect. A 3-course meal cost just under 300 DKK per person.

Another restaurant that was on the list of 50 Best Discovery restaurants in the world was Kaiamo. This one was close to the tournament venue (2o mins walk away), so Martin and I went there the next evening to try their 11 course tasting menu (there was no vegetarian option for Jesper, so he and Eigo ate somewhere else). It was a little more expensive than The Artist (around 830 DKK per person), but totally worth it. 

Finally, we went to the Amethyst Sky Bar on our last evening. It was around a 40 minutes' walk from our hotel and it was a restaurant in another hotel, but it had a view over the city so we wanted to check that out. Food was very good, and the view was definitely a bonus. Another good thing about eating there is that when you are done and the sun has set, you can walk down the fountain boulevard and see how it looks lighted up.

Note: it is very normal to include a tip of 3% - 15% at restaurants as service charge isn't included.

Sightseeing in Bucharest

I recommend living in the Old Town to take the opportunity to easily explore Bucharest. We stayed at the Leonardo Hotel Bucharest City which was in the Old Town and around 10 minutes from the tournament venue by Uber. Most of the points of interests were in the Old Town, and it was fairly easy enough to walk to the world's heaviest administrative building, and 2nd largest in the world, the Palace of Parliament. We had the whole of Friday and Monday to do our sightseeing, which was definitely enough. Bucharest is surprisingly an interesting city to explore, and safe too! After all, all the gypsies are in Rome and Paris, and Count Dracula was far away in Transylvania.

RONmania Riichi Tournament 2023

Now for the main reason why we were in Romania: RONmania Open! It was a 2 day MERS 3+ tournament (9 hanchans) with 36 players from 15 different countries. The venue was at a restaurant/café space that wasn't operational yet, and the owners managed to renovate the playing area just in time for us to use it. Snacks were available throughout the tournament, and lunch was buffet style with very delicious Turkish food on both days. Drinks were also included (except for beers - they were available, but you'd have to pay for them). Coffee was also included, but not tea, which would be my only complaint as a tea drinker.

It was a pleasure playing at this tournament as everyone played fairly and were friendly and respectful of each other. It was lovely to see familiar faces after 2 years of Covid lockdown, but also to see new faces as the mahjong community in Europe grows.

As for the results, the Danish delegation did stupendously well! It was on the 2nd day, where Jesper, Eigo and I started climbing up the ranking list quickly because of some good hanchans.

Final results for Denmark:
#2: Sheila
#7: Jesper
#8: Eigo

See the full ranking.
Read the Observer Report (Jesper was assigned EMA Observer).

All in all, it was a very good trip to Bucharest, and I would definitely be tempted to compete there again. I encourage more Danes to give it a try too, and make a an extended weekend vacation out of it at the same time because Bucharest does have something to offer.