Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dubai: The fog that turned out to be a Sandstorm!

The bed at Jumeirah Creekside hotel is so comfortable that I did not get up until 11am. Hahahahha

Oh God, so much for my planned itinerary! Anyhow, this is supposed to be a holiday and so it means, lots of relaxation and much-needed sleep.

Finally woke up and peeked through the window.....I initially thought it was a normal foggy morning and then belatedly realized that its noontime and it can't be this foggy. When we finally came out from the hotel, the streets were almost on zero visibility. A whole blizzard of sandstorm blown all the way from Saudi Arabia is sweeping through Dubai, blanketing the whole place with dust.

Yeyyyyy! My first real Mideast sandstorm!!!

We ducked into the nearest restaurant we can find just to step away from the storm. Good thing it was a Japanese restaurant so I was able to get my fill of California maki and beef teriyaki (now I can go back to the mountains hahahha).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm off to Dubayyyyyyyy

My trip to Dubai did not start well.......first, I had to call the driver because he did not show up at the agreed time of seems he just woke up when I called him. Then, my flight got delayed....

My take off time is supposed to be 10:45am and guess what, the plane got delayed due to technical problems (scary, after all the plane crashes that we've seen in the news recently) and we finally took off after a 3-hr delay. Quite surprising for an Emirates flight, they are normally quite efficient with their schedules.

Just 20 minutes before arrival in Dubai, the plane hit some airpockets and was rocking madly.....oh shit! I know it's April Fools Day (things seems to be a joke the whole day) but I couldn't find anything funny when my mind just keeps on replaying images of the recent Germanwings flight and before I can start my litany of prayers, the captain finally announced that we are now due to arrive in Dubai in a few minutes. Halleluia!

And it was not finished yet...... Tried to activate roaming on my phone for both SIMs only to realize that my personal SIM doesn't have enough credit and my office SIM should have been activated prior.....I went to line up in an Etisalat counter and after 20 minutes, the line still did not move because the guy manning the counter was slow and was just leisurely chatting with the customer while the queue behind became longer and longer(now I believe what others say about the work standards of Emiratis)......and so I left and took a taxi to the hotel. I actually took a cab for females, it has pink stripes and comes with a female driver.

With both my phones almost dead and no mobile connection, I have to wait for my friend to show up coz the booking is under her name.

This is surely not my day…’s been 30mins now and I am still waiting in the lobby… and since I cannot call, I have to ask the reception to call my friend…..and so the whole arrival to Dubai saga continues….

Finally got the hotel check-in sorted out and while waiting for my friend to arrive, I laid out my LP guidebook and whatnots hahahahha…..all set! 

My host for my first night is a former colleague from Jumeirah, and she graciously granted my request of staying in a Jumeirah hotel when I arrive in Dubai. While catching up on stories and chika (we have not seen each other for more than 4 years), another friend arrived and we moved to the rooftop bar, Cu-Ba lounge for a short drink before bidding adieu to my first night in Dubai. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Welcome to Oman!

Apprehensions battled with excitement......a new year and a new work location, in a region where I have not traveled and explored yet (except those airport transits in Doha & Dubai on the way to somewhere).

Its such a long way from home......I started off from Cebu City and due to the heavy airline traffic during the post-Sinulog week, I had to make do with an earlier flight at 6am to Manila. And after waiting at the airport for 10 hours, I have to sit through another 9-hour flight from Manila to Dubai International Airport. Good thing though, the transit time was just 3 hours and flight to Muscat takes only an hour.

I arrived at around 4:30am and immediately took off for Nizwa, about an hour's drive from the capital, Muscat. The ride to Nizwa was uneventful but when we started to go up to the Jabal Akhdar mountains (will be working in a resort high up in the mountains), the sky was awash with colors. I asked the driver to stop off as I just cannot stop myself from taking a photo from my phone.

About ten minutes after, the colors have changed into a myriad of hues, pink, orange, was amazing!

When I arrived at my accommodation, I slept off the whole day and then voila, woke up to this view of the sunset from my balcony!

Maruhabaa! What a warm welcome to Oman!!!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (part 3)

Happy birthday to me!!!!

I literally lazed around my room the entire morning...went down for breakfast around 7:30am then back to bed again for another snooze. I went out again around 2pm to have lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Stayed there for another hour having a pot of tea while watching a "No English Subtitles" Chinese movie hahahaha....ano kaya ang mas original pa kaysa ganyan.

Got out, dressed up and packed up my things, waited for my friend to pick me up for a trip to the 5-star Empire Hotel & Country Club in Kampung Jerudong which is a bit far from the city. The hotel itself does not look grandeous outside but when you go in, whoa! the pillars are gold-plated.

No wonder everyone has a car here, when we gassed up at the fuel station we only paid about 20usd. Ugh! At home in the Philippines, I almost had a heart attack when I got the bill after telling the attendant to fill the tank in full --- PhP 3,500 (83usd). I can really live here if only for the petrol. Hahaha

I was craving for some Japanese so after the "ogling the blings" moment at the Empire, we went back to Yayasan Complex. Just right across is the Japanese restaurant --- Kaizen Sushi. The restaurant is really popular with expat crowd as we had to wait for about 20 minutes before we got seated, though I loved where we sat.....just in front of the sushi masters wielding their knives and cooking those delicious food right in front of us!

And we have our very own special chef, a fellow Bisaya from Leyte! Salamat kaayo sa lami nga pagkaon!

Time to go...... Goodbye Brunei!!! Till we meet again....

Left early for the airport (at least 4.5hrs yata from boarding time hahahaha) so I can still have some nap time. My last glimpse of the promenade near Kampung Ayer....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (part 2)

Only had a few hours sleep dahil sa mga walang katapusang chikahan with my hosts who also were my childhood friends and school mates at the same elementary school I went to. Its really nice to meet up with people you've grown up with.

I have a really packed itinerary for the day. I want to visit all the sights around BSB within the day if possible coz I want to relax on my birth day tomorrow. :-)

First off is to check in at the Traders Inn Hotel (not a part of the Shangri-la chain) which is quite a distance from the BSB center although the good thing is it is on the bus route so its very easy to move around. It is also the cheapest hotel I can find (just above the hostels and guesthouses). The rooms are also quite comfortable enough and free wifi 24/7.
I took a bus from my hotel and went back to Yayasan shopping complex to have a look-see and also to have breakfast. The country is not heavily-visited by tourists hence the only souvenir stall I saw in my entire stay was in a small kiosk in this shopping complex. Since its in the middle of a working week, the mall is eerily quiet with only a few mall-goers around.
Went to a chinese restaurant.....

Right at the back of the shopping complex is the beautiful Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque that we visited last night. The night view might have been romantic but the day view of the mosque comes equally close, still stunningly beautiful.

I went inside the mosque, and unlike in other countries, the mosque attendants here are quite pleasant and welcoming to non-Moslems. They made me wear the black abaya dress before I go in. I have nothing against wearing it because its their religious traditions and since I want to look inside then I have to respect their requirements. But yeah, it really is stifling hot in the dress!

It might be smaller than the sprawling Jame' Asr mosque but it doesn't lack from perfection in all angles, day or night. Located in the intersection of Jalan Stoney, its whiteness shines like a beacon.

 I went looking for the Chinese temple I previously saw when we passed by on our way to my friend's apartment. I was really interested to know how a Islamic state like Brunei can have a Chinese temple located near the busy downtown area. It only shows how tolerant the Bruneian government and society had been with religious affiliations of other members of their immigrant and expat society (I think they even have a Catholic congregation here though I'm not sure if it comes with a church). Sadly, if we refer to recent news, the Sultan is probably under pressure from its Islamic brother-States who favor extremism and is now leaning on having a more restrictive State practicing Sharia law. Well, I sincerely hope it will get reversed, otherwise the smiling and courteous Bruneians that I've met will be replaced by a stoic and frightened population.

The temple interior is very simple. Incense sticks were still burning with smoke wafting around, indicating that it is indeed a very active temple used by the immigrant Chinese society here in Brunei.

Armed with the maps from my LP guide book, I walked around for the places on my sightseeing list punctuated by coffee stops in between.

The best place for me to learn more about Brunei's history is to visit at least one of its museums, I went to the Royal Regalia Museum. Home to a very interesting display of royal memorabilia, primarily traditional costumes and items used during the royal procession.

 There are also several rooms displaying all the presents given to the Sultan during his reign, lots of gold and silver in those rooms na parang treasury. There are also displays of all the medals and honors given to him by different countries and other royal houses.

 But the most anticipated part of my itinerary is the water cruise around Kampung Ayer. Considered to be the largest stilt settlement in the world with more than 20,000 Bruneians and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, Kampung Ayer has schools (grade school and secondary), hospital, police station, and mosques.

I took a boat near this mini-park next to Yayasan complex, you can just flag a passing boat and literally jump in!

I have a very informative and generous water taxi driver (he charged me only 20BND for the entire trip!).....who acted as my tour guide/photographer and even invited me to their house (we actually stopped and he pointed it out to me though I did not get down from the boat coz I had to jump in again hahahaha). He even took me to the pier attached to the royal palace, I was still hoping to get a glimpse of Sultan Bolkiah! hahahaha

Enjoy my photos of Kampung Ayer....
Oh di ba, stilt house nga pero all rooms are airconditioned!
Sabi ng boatman, eto daw yung jetty ng royal palace...parang di naman kagandahan hahaha
Most of the houses we passed by have their own motorboats...
Look how colorful the houses are....
This is a school daw...sobrang laki
And their fire station.....oh di ba, prepared sila kahit napapalibutan ng tubig
Nakikipag-karerahan yata....feeling nya race car driver sya!
Oh well, we went in sumuot hanggang saan hahaha
 But hey, all the residents here in Kampung Ayer probably has at least a car or two for each family.....evidence is the parking lot for K.A. residents that is full of brand new cars!

Oh well, with diesel priced at 0.20 US$ it is really cheaper to drive your own car than use a taxi!

I need to go back to my hotel and freshen up for another dinner date with my hosts and their Pinoy friends. I went to the bus station (there is only 1 here in downtown area I think) and there's only a few people around. It was eerily quiet for a bus terminal. Bus fare is only 1BND and its a fixed rate for BSB area.

 We went for some grilled seafood in "turo-turo" Brunei version together with some Thai dishes. I was happy because of the spicy food but alas some of my hosts were not hahaha.....nakaka usok sa tenga ang anghang kasi!