Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dubai Outlet Mall Adventure

Because its Eid and no work, the people from Abu Dhabi are hitting the highways going to Dubai and enjoy the holidays. Most would be heading straight to the beach resorts and enjoy the sun and frolic in the water. Or is it the other way around? Who cares, right?

My husband and I decided to do early christmas shopping. Not that malls here will be busy by then, still, its the perfect time to take advantage of the holidays. So we packed our stuff, wore our lightest outfit and headed out to Dubai. This will be the first time that we are driving to Dubai without any guide - well except for google maps.

The trip started around 10:40 am. I know its already late, but who's keeping track of time? So we took Road No. 10 heading to Shahama. It was quite a long trip. So if you are planning to do a road trip, be sure to pack some chips and lots and lots of water. It also helps if you talk non-stop it will keep the driver awake.  For my case the driver was already annoyed, I guess I'm a talker? (big grin)

After Road No. 10 we took exit 11. While cruising road 11 (Sheik Zayed Road), we were looking for the Truck Road to head to Road 311. Unfortunately, we can't find Truck Road and ended up going straight Road 11. We found exit 53 and took it, which luckily connects to Emirates Road or Road 311.

Along Road 311 we looked for Exit 57 that will lead us to Road 611 which is the main road going to Dubai Outlet Mall.

The road signs were a bit confusing, so we ended up entering the city proper. Road 311 actually leads straight to the city center, watch out for the Burj Khalifa, it will guide you. We took Business Bay road, and eventually found our way back to road 311. We took 311 and looked for Road 66. Luckily Road 66 and Road 311 is almost the same road. While cruising the road, we finally saw the mall's signage. It's a postive sign. Finally we saw the Universal Studios Gate that's when we knew we found the right road.

The trip took almost 3 hours, that is because we got lost. But when we went back to Abu Dhabi, it only took us almost 2 hours. We still took Road 311 but we just followed the signage that heads to Abu Dhabi.

The trip was fun, while I navigate, and check every signage in the street, it was a test of wits. Next holiday, we might check out other emirate city and do another adventure.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Realities of Working Abroad

Living abroad has its perks and downsides. And sometimes, downsides weighed more than the perks. But still people go out of their country in the hope of grazing on the greener side of the fence. Horror stories of the life living abroad attracts attention once in awhile,but most of them were just discarded and forgotten.

I have my own share of nightmares. My recent was just yesterday, 21 August 2011. It was one of those times that we are blamed for being Asian and because we are not Arabs. One Wednesday on the month of Ramadan, August 04, 2011, around 1:30 pm we were asked to assist the engineers to prepare a BOQ. For those who are not into the construction and engineering field, BOQ is Bill of Quantities which is usually submitted to tender for any project being bid. To make the story short, the BOQ preparation was hurriedly done, we were given the day before the deadline to complete a 4 inches thick BOQ. Being Ramadan and all, we were ordered to stay in the office and finish the job until 11:30 pm without lunch. Good thing, one of the office mate lives nearby cooked instant food, we hid in one room to grab a bite and that was already 4:30 pm. Anyway, we ended up not getting the job because of huge discrepancies. And ho and behold, we are being blamed for it. We only wrote the numbers and we didn't calculated the value. One of the Managers threatened to deduct from our salary for not getting the project. WTF. Sorry, but that really sounded unfair. The good side though, it was not implemented.

My Singapore experience was a different story but still connected with the filling up of BOQ documents. Unfortunately, I'm the only QS doing the BOQ that time. So the manager, told me to work beyond working hours and even on Sundays. There was one Sunday that they made me work and didn't let me go home. My husband, my fiance then who was vacationing in Singapore that time, decided to push me to resign. The way they treat employee is simply unacceptable.

I guess, there really is no such thing as the perfect work - where you will be working with the perfect boss and perfect salary. But I always believe, there are still some humane managers out there who will treat you like a human being and not a slave or a robot. I pray, that once of these days, I'd bump into one of them and change my stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Abu Dhabi Iftar 2011

One of the most fascinating happening during Ramadan here in the Middle East is the way they carry out the whole routine for a solid month. For Catholics like me, is quite a feat already because I only get to fast from any indulgences for 3 days during the Holy Week. And sometimes, forgive me, I do it begrudgingly.

As we all know, Ramadan is the time when our Muslim brothers and sisters fast from sun-up until sun down. Until then, they break their fast for the day through Iftar meals. Iftar dinner is done after sunset and often began by eating dates and water. Since Ramadan is also a time to be charitable, many organizations, groups, families and companies, give iftar dinners. Our company recently just had one on 15 August 2011. As per our colleague who already had 3 Iftars with this company, this dinner gathering is basically the main celebration for the entire company for the year.

The dinner, per the invitation, starts at 7:00 pm. When we got there it was 7:15 pm and everybody was already eating! No tables available anymore. I say poor coordination or it whatever reason. But since we were assigned at the table near the big bosses, we were not able to eat immediately. Most of the attendees, after eating went out already or went home. Not much fuss over dinners like this one. Since the crowd is already thinning we decided to go back to the buffet area to get more food, but unfortunately, the staff were already doing the “buffet out.” It was exactly 8:00 pm and they are clearing out already. It was a sad dinner. I was not able to eat enough and enjoy their food.

Ramadan is almost over so no more Iftar dinners in almost all restaurants. I still have a long list of restaurants and fast food I would like to try before this month closes. Here’s my list:

Ponderosa – Caravan
Electra Street, Hamed Center
55 per head.    
Good food, nice place and very light I the pocket. Plenty of food to choose from - American/Mexican, Arabian and Italian. Sad part, the plates are too small! We have to go back to replenish. Must try their lemonade.

Beach Rotana Hotel
Tourist Club Area
Very nice place to dine out and have an intimate dinner, but the timing for the clearing is simply disappointing.

Le Meridien
Tourist Club Area
Cost: AED 155 per head

Holiday Inn
Cost: AED 125 per head

Yas Hotel
Yas Island
Cost: AED 145.00 per head

Vision Hotel Apartments
Tourist Club Area
Cost: AED 90.00 per head

Grand Millenium Al Wahda
next to Al Wahda Mall
Cost: AED 160.00 per head

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Singapore 4 Day Itinerary

When going for a vacation, the best way to maximize your stay in a foreign country is to plan, plan and plan. You study the country, what makes it interesting, what are the places to visit, where to try out the best food and how to go around the city. Nowadays, vacation planning is no longer that tedious, because there are a lot of material to read and absorb in the internet that you don't have to stay inside the bookstore to look at the maps and you don't have to buy travel books to guide you.

When in Asia there are two cities that are tourists magnet - Singapore and Hongkong. If, that is if you are into shopping vacation. Here is a simple 4-day itinerary for those who are planning to visit Singapore. You don't need to book a tourist guide to discover the city. Do it on your own and in your own pace and have your own Singapore story.

1 Day - Arrival
Since it depends on the time your arrive, we will just start off with the check in time in hotels. Usually, check in time is at 2:00 pm. After checking in, the best way to head out is the city's central business/shopping district - Orchard. Known to be along the red line at the heart of the interconnecting MRT lines. Stroll along the shopping malls in Orchard. Take a snack by trying out their 1 SGD ice cream. Recommended flavor: bubble gum.

When dinnertime is almost near, you can hop on to the MRT and alight at Dhoby Ghaut change MRT and take the purple going to Clarke Quay. This is where fabulously expensive restaurants and bars are located. Favorite stop is the Hooters. But aside from the restaurants, fast food is also found inside the Clarke Quay Mall if you are in a budget. At night, the lights filled the river with changing colors. Benches are scattered everywhere. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try out Gmax or the Bungy Ride. If you had enough for the night, back to the hotel to make way for the next day of walk.

Day 2:
If you are checked in to the hotel with a buffet breakfast, it is always a good thing to be one of the first guests to be in the dining hall. you'd get the freshest juice and food. Not that the rest won't be fresh anymore, but the staff is more accommodating if you are one of the first to be in the restaurant. Be sure to pack in enough food because you'd be walking most of the time. Before going in to your events of the day, make sure to buy a bottled water to keep you quenched. Plan for the day is Sentosa Island. Take the Purple line MRT going to Harbourfront station. The MRT exit is inside Vivo City Mall, the ride going Sentosa is found on the 3rd level of the mall. Spend the day roaming Universal Studios and Sentosa Marine Attractions. Click here for more information on the entertainment of the island. Make sure to stay until around 7:00 pm to enjoy that Songs of the Sea. Kids would love the show.

This day is good as exhausting. Back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

3rd day:
Start the day early, and prepare for the most exhausting day (again!) Nature tripping and visit Singapore Zoo. Take the red line MRT again and get off at Ang Mo Kio. From the station go to the nearest bus interchange, signs will lead you there and take bus no.138. You'll get off right in front of the zoo. After 3 hours in the zoo, you can start shopping. Going back to where you began, take the Ang Mo Kio MRT going to City Hall Mrt Station. Alight at exit D going where Funan Mall is located. If you are in serious need to buy the best deals in IT gadgets, this is the place.

After Funan Mall, go back to to the MRT station where you can walk going to Suntec City. One of the biggest Mall in the city where the biggest fountain is located. Fountain show starts at 7:00 pm. It's free. Inside the walk going to the mall, there is a way going to Esplanade. Singapore's famous landmark. And just a few steps from Esplanade is the Merlion. Take a res and enjoy the view. AFter the walk and the picture taking, time to take the the MRT again and go to Bugis Station. Shop and Eat. Nearby Bugis Junction is Sim Lim Square, famous for selling gadgets like cameras and cellphones. visit the palce and don't forget to haggle.

For the last night in Singapore, why not make the most of it. Visit Mustafa - the 24 hour Mall. It is located in the Purple Line. Alight at Little India, the Mustafa Mall is located behind Serangoon Plaza. Buy all the souvenirs you need for a cheaper price.

4th Day:
Last day, checking out. Once in the airport, the shopping continues, shops are also located inside the airport. Before boarding that plane, don't forget to have your GST. Tax refund. GST counter is visible in the airport, you can have all the items you bought checked so you can have a refund.

Actually, the 4 days in Singapore is not enough to enjoy everything in Singapore. This is just the basic must visits in the city. If you have a thicker budget, you can extend a few more days to discover more of Singapore

Monday, August 1, 2011

My First 30-Days of Ramadan

01 August 2011
8:15 am
Today marks my first Ramadan experience. Though, I was already here last year for the Ramadan season, but, I was not working then, so I wouldn’t really know. So to prepare myself to the big no-eat, no-drink event, I ate breakfast. Usually I just drink milk. I ate a sandwich and apple juice. Hopefully this would keep me satisfied until 2 pm. Good thing, work timings are shortened. Otherwise, I’ll end up unconscious before the working time ends. Around 9:50 am, I slipped a candy because I’m getting thirsty. Four (4) more hours before work time is over. Hopefully we don’t have to extend.
13:36 pm
So far, I’m doing good and surviving the no-eat, no-drink day. I have only consumed 2 candies. No water yet, and amazingly I have peed twice already. A few minutes more and I’m off. I’m counting the minutes already. I’m hungry.
14:20 pm
Hungry…..still at the office. :(

02 August 2011

8:02 am
The 10-minute walk to the office got me thirsty. Good thing, not much people were at the office and was able to get some water. I'm hiding it in between file folders. I do apologize, I just can't help it.

8:28 am
Took a small sip. Does this make me bad?

11:26 am
My stomach is already grumbling. I think I'm overusing my brain again. Lol. I want to go and buy some groceries at Choitram when I get off. I wanted to buy all the food available in the grocery. I am so hungry. There is something about fasting from water and any solid for a number of hours, it makes you crave for everything you could afford to buy. My brain is in such a frantic mode in searching what good restaurants are available in the city. Perhaps, I should convince my husband and try out the Iftar dinners in the city. hhmmmm...

5:30 pm

Went to the nearest grocery, Fathima Supermarket, to buy additional ingredients I need for the dinner I am cooking. Good thing I asked my husband to accompany me. Everybody inside the supermarket are men! What happen to the women in the area? Were they too tired to do some groceries? Anyway, it was kind of freaky. I was the only woman inside the store. So this is Ramadan here in the middle east. Most women are in their homes doing the cooking. Additional information from my very keen husband, meal time during Ramadan, men eat together then the women afterwards. They don't eat the same time. This is for one month. Wow.

03 August 2011

7:50 am
Pass by the grocery to buy candy to keep me sustained during the entire working time. I also had a bottled water on the sideline in case I need a sip or two.

10:00 am
Pretty busy the entire time.

3:00 pm
Still in the freaking office. All of us non-muslim working are asked to work without eating. I mean, SERIOUSLY???

4:05 PM

04 August 2011
12:42 am

I think my eyes are going to fall off any moment now. I can feel my extremities refusing to move. My brain is simply telling me to get some rest and sleep. As expected, we went home very late already. Only 30 minutes more and its already the following day. But good employees as we are, we still came in today right on the dot! Despite the lack of sleep and no water and food (slightly) I am going to crawl going home. Seriously.

Was not able to tell more about last night, we got out of the office around 11:30 pm. I was surprised that Khalidiya is still buzzing with acitivity. However, still, only a few women are roaming around the area. Even though we went home late, it was not so scary to walk home.

12:46 pm
Keeping my eyes open and keeping a sane mind is really a feat right now.

05 August 2011
12:35 pm
Friday at last! So I woke up at around 7:45. hohum (i know!) But then, I don't have to get up immediately, we just spent like half an hour talking about plans for the day and our budget for the eid. What would be our final plan. That is something we should ponder every single day since Ramadan started.
I cooked some brunch, cleaned the flat, and now I am just typing away. We wanted to visit IKEA the thing is its too hot right now. The heat feels like its melting your brains out. No use roaming the the downtown area too. Most restaurants will be closed as well as stores. Groceries are the only establishments opened at this time. The malls, open at around 3 pm. So the shopping thing will have to wait till later. Not much to tell, despite the load of work at the office, I still like Ramadan so far. Earlier time of going home. I can't remember going home right on the dot. If we do, the look on our boss' face would have us backing down and opening our computers back on. That's how working in Abu Dhabi is, they don't literally force you to work overtime, but the look on their faces simply tells it all. :(

6:30 pm
After church, we decided to visit Abu Dhabi Mall for window shopping. Since its Ramadan, the foodcourt would probably open a bit later since eating time is 7:00 pm. Aroung 7:15 we went to the foodcourt and was amazed. The place was packed. Almost all fast food chains have long queues. It was a nightmare. Even tables were not available. We have to wait, so we decided to take the food away and eat it at home instead. This is eating out during Ramadan, it was total chaos.

06 August 2011
10:16 am

I am surviving. I still have a bag of m&ms inside my drawer. My water bottle is half empty. But so far, I am doing ok.

07 August 2011
7:55 am
While walking to the office, I can't help but notice that today is way hotter than any other summer mornings. When I arrived at the office, which was basically and slow 10 minute walk, I was perspiring profusely. Like I was going to be put into trial. It was really hot, so I made a dash to the pantry to replenish my self. We still have enough chocolate supplies in my drawer to keep me going until 2 pm.

10:00 pm
Despite the occasional servings of chocolate bites, I still feel hungry. I had some toasts and two spoonful of tuna pasta and half a glass of milk. I'm still hungry. All I could think about is going home and cook whatever I can find from the fridge.

2:50 pm
Home at last! Made chili-garlic pasta. smack! smack!

12 August 2011
11:30 pm.
It has been a hectic few days. Was not able to do some recording of the days. Anyway, few update since the last time I wrote something. A new mall opened, Mashrif Mall. We saw this advertisement flyer for the opening and some stuff on sale. It opening on the 10th. We went there the following day hoping to buy that 10 pc Tefal set. To my dismay, the stock were already gone. I guess, plenty of people saw that flyer too. But i can't imagine how fast the stock was sold out. RAwrrr...Anyway, I will continue to prowl the city for more great buys during Ramadan. By the way, Carrefour is also doing some sale thing. We bought this 6 pc tumbler Luminarc for only 10 AED. How cool is that? We are starting to buy some stuff to send to Phil. for Christmas. *sigh* I'll be spending it here this year. Really really sad.

13 August 2011
8:50 pm

Another long Saturday. Started like any other working day. The thing is, I woke up lazy. Meaning I don't feel like doing anything. Even drinking milk was too tiring. Seriously. Good thing most of the bosses arrived late. The sad part is, there's still plenty of work to do. Went home at 3:30 pm. Sleepy and hungry, I trudged home and hoping to get a wink. But if you are living abroad and on your own, you have to do chores. That dreadful chores. So I have to iron clothes. This is the life of the OFW.

19 August 2011
It has been 5 days since the last time I placed something. I am supposed to make another psot for the next 15 days. The other Monday, 15 August we went to our office Iftar dinner, but I won't tell it here. It was fun, but it was quick to end. We didn't even enjoyed the entire dinner. sheesh. And last thursday, 18 August, we attended a baptismal. The baptismal started at 4:30 pm and ended like around 5 pm. It is customary that after baptismal ceremonies, guests are invited to partake a small get together sponsored by the parents of the child. However, since it is Ramadan, every restaurants will only serve food starting at 7:00 pm. Big dilemma. What we did, we just went 'malling' a.k.a. window shopping for a few hours to kill the time till its dinnertime. It ended well, good eats with good friends. What a way to start the weekend.

26 August 2011
Another week has passed and Ramadan is almost over. So far, there are plenty of things I have realized about this time. For one, the early going home, I mean, even though our memo says we are only working from 8 am to 2 pm. we always go home around 3 or 4 pm we can still go home earlier than dinner time. If we could go out around 2:30 it is already a treat. And when I get home, I could have a short nap and rest. Do other chores and prepare dinner earlier. Plus the no eat most of the time helped me lose weight! I'm definitely loving it! The end of Ramadan is closing in, so we are planning big time on what to do on the two days holiday. I'll write more next time.

30 August 2011
1:00 am
Eid Mubarak! Ramadan has come to its completion. At exactly 8:30 pm last night, 29 August 2011, (a few hours from the time I made this entry) cellphones have been ringing and its from our bosses, not that they want us to go to work at that hour, but to let us know that Ramadan is over and the holiday is officially started. Perfect timing because we also planned to have a party on that night. Now that it was made official, everybody can drink all they want till they drop because they could nurse their hangover for two whole days. I left the party earlier, 12 midnight, like Cinderella. While walking home, the streets of Daruthalmiya, Khalidiya was buzzing with life. The party ambiance is everywhere, and everybody seems to be in high spirits. Despite the humidity, everybody was out in the streets, sitting outside smoking and eating. We passed by a gent's saloon and plenty of people inside. One even was having a mud pack on. Truly celebrating the festive day of Eid ul-Fitr.

Though this is my second Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi, this is the first time that I have experienced it as part of the community. Last year, I was hiding inside the room the whole time. No time and venue to observe what really was going on during this Holy Month. Next year, I have set a new goal, that is if I am still here in Abu Dhabi. I'm planning to try all the iftar offers in the city for 30 days. That would be fun, but the thing is, how will I lose those weights I'd probably gain in that one month. Hmmm. Dilemma. But! That's for next year, who know, I might think of other things to do for that eventful 30 days.