Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rendezvous in Baguio

While I was walking home last night, I can't help notice that the air is getting warmer already.  I guess its time to bid winter goodbye and a hello to summer.  Winter end so soon.  I still like wearing clothes in layer.  It makes me feel like I'm in another country.  Summer in the middle east stretch in in a long period.  It starts to get warm around April until September, unlike in the Philippines, March marks the beginning of summer with sun bathing and sun blocks tops the list.

But for those who has a slight aversion to the heat and sun they escape to Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.  Ironic as it is, Baguio has a cooler temperature compared to the rest of the archipelago hardly the actual temeprature of summer in the Philippines.

Anyway, my first and last visit to this city was a few years back.  And I must say, it was hardly memorable at all.  The whole trip gave me a heavy migraine.

We left Manila around 10:00 pm, via Victory Liner.  I forgot the fare already because I was not the one who paid for it. (wink wink) We arrived in Baguio around 5:00 am.  It was still dark but the bus terminal was already buzzing with life.  Still sleepy and tired, we try to look for a taxi that will take us to our hotel.  There were plenty of drivers who offer tour packages if you don't have a set plan.  My tatay haggled with one nice guy, we got a total of Php 6000.00 for the 6 of us. 

Since it was still early, when we arrived at the hotel, the apartment that we reserved is not yet ready, so we decided to have breakfast and start with our tour.  We left our stuff at the hotel, which I'm sorry to say I completely forgot the name.  So here are the places where we had our pictures taken or just ate something:

*  Session Road:

The busy street where we had our breakfast, where else? Jollibee!

*  Lourdes Grotto:

We had to climb the stairs, but my parents and aunt opted to enjoy the view from below.  so with my sister and brother, we hiked up and well looked at the grotto.  WE stopped by to check souvenir stalls at the landing where a "kindly" old lady told us to wear their native headdress and make a pose so somebody could take our picture, she posed with us.  We were all up for it, until the picture was taken and she asked us to pay Php50 for the picture.  Seriously???  Anyway, we paid.


The place is a combination of relic and discipline.  Some old weapons like canons and old aircrafts are parked on one of the areas.  And on the other field are new recruits doing their daily exercise. 

*  Camp John Hay

The park was simple homey.  We didn't stick around that long to roam the entire ground.  We just had this short guided tour on one of the areas.

*  The Mansion

The Mansion or the little Malacanang of the North.  I hope I get the title right though.  But it sounds like it.  It was ok, but I hav appreciated more the sweet corn being sold on the opposite road.  Sorry!

* The Bell Tower

Reminded me so much of our Hongkong trips. 

* Good Shepherd Convent

Home of the delicious Ube Jam.  I can't believe one bottle costs so much.  This is also where we bought our pasalubongs like the peanut britttle and other sweet goodies.

We had our merienda near this market where a lot of "ukay-ukay" vendors are stationed.  We had sundae with strawberries, of course!  We had our dinner at SM Baguio which is so packed.  You'd get so dizzy just walking around.  We went to our hotel around 7:00 pm and decided to rest.  We woke up around 2:00 am and headed to the bus station to go back to Manila. 

It was a quick tour in the dizzying city.  I'm not so fascinated with the place, maybe because the houses and the roads that rise and fall gives me a big headache.  Maybe next time I'll give Baguio another try.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lunch at the Courtyard

The Friday after the red letter day, the husband proposed to have our "post-valentine" lunch.  We decided to stay away from the crowd on the 14th and sorry to say, I still find it too cheesy going out on Valentine's.  Though I'd love to have some lovin' while staying in.  So the venue: The Central Market - or better known as The Souk.

You'd probably wonder why he would be taking me to the market for a romantic lunch out.  Back then when we were still living along Hamdan street, the bus always pass by this construction for with a big market on the fence.  And until now, the building is not yet finish, or so I thought.  At the bag of the humongous construction is the Central Market.  We used the corniche road to enter the area.  The facade of the building is simple beautiful.  Elegant in an Arabic way.  I don't know it was really nice, it kind of reminded me of those facade at Masdar City.

So we went in, in a hurry, was not able to get good photos because there's a sand storm.  Of all the days that a sandstorm should happen that was on that day.  Anyway, it was 1:30 pm and some of the shops are still close.  The ambiance inside is as exciting as the facade that covers the building.  low lights everywhere and intricate wood paneling is everywhere.  A true taste of the Arabic culture.  So we scout the place to look for where we could it.  A lot of shops are selling antique and locally made products.  The door that we entered at even have a small corner where a man was rolling some clay to make into beautiful bracelets.  Authentic.  There are only a few shops on the first level, so we decided to check the second and third level.  Unfortunately, there are still no shops at this level.  So we decided to check again the first level.  Then we found the courtyard.  in the center of many restaurants and shops, an area lined with small trees with tables and chairs scattered everywhere reminds you of Sunday lunches. 

We took a table right next to tree, because I think it kind of looked romantic.  Then a friendly staff gave us the menu, I asked her why it was called the courtyard.  She said, it is supposed to be an opened area, with all the sun coming it, but since there's one heck of a sandstorm going on outside, they have to close the rooftop.  Then I looked up.  It really is a courtyard.  An open area in the center of everything.  Pretty!

The restaurant serving our lunch is called Chapters.  They serve international cuisine.  it was pretty confusing, I would have preferred anything European considering the ambiance.  However, that didn't stop me from ordering Asian food. LOL.  My husband ordered Nasi Goreng (Malaysian) and me Chicken Yakisoba (Japanese).  As much as I love what we have ordered, the Yakisoba just taste like Pad Thai plus the noodles didn't look like the flat ones as I have expected.  The serving was huge, so we had to haul our bum-bum up to walk off the extra load.  Total wallet damage was AED 137.00.  Good enough.

I wanted to buy something authentic from the shops, unfortunately it was too expensive.  But before going back to the car, we stopped by at the corner vendor by the door which I have mentioned earlier and realized those authentic hand made jewelry are wallet friendly.  I took some time to try on almost everything and ended up buying bangles and crystal earrings.

Culture plus good food make a good combination.

Friday, February 17, 2012

All Aboard!!

A few days before Valentine's day and on a Friday (good bye rest day!), my husband and I packed our bathing stuff and put on our beach outfit. On a winter season, walking towards the parking lot at 5:00 am is sheer torture but for the promise of adventure, we brave the coldness. We left Abu Dhabi 5:15 am and reached Dubai around 6:30 am to embark on the our yacht trip adventure aboard Ekaterina.
This adventure was two months in the making. I mean, I think I made the reservation on December 2011, and it was difficult to check which dates public holidays will fall. But since, winter is still at its peak around December and January, might as well pick February in time for our wedding anniversary and Valentine's celebration. To make the long story short, I made the reservation and was informed to be there by 7:00 am for the pickup since the yacht is located in Fujairah a good two-hours drive from Dubai. So this package includes the following:
- A full day 7-hour of water adventure alongside astonishing landscapes of Fujairah on board one and only sailing yacht in UAE.

 - Transfer from Dubai to Fujairah and back
 - French breakfast with hot croissants and fresh fruits 
- Unlimited juices, soft drinks and water - Special Chef's lunch with grilled fish and meat 
- Swimming in a secluded bay and snorkeling in abundant underwater life 
- Fresh towels provided 
- Fishing dorade, tuna, hamour, etc 
- Speed boat riding
That was what the brochure say, unfortunately there are some downside on the trip. But first the good points. Finding Dubai Marina Yacht Club was pretty difficult. Luckily, we reached the venue 3 minutes before 7:00 am. Parking space was difficult so we opted with valet parking which costs AED 50.00. So we went inside the yacht club waiting area and waited for the rest of the passengers. Unfortunately, we will be going with (I'm sorry to mention) Indians. And they are uber late. We left Dubai 8:00 am an hour after we are supposed to leave because of them. There were 20 of them I guess.
The ride to Fujairah took 2 hours. We passed by beautiful landscapes of limestones. It was breathtaking, I can't believe I'd appreciate a mountain full of rocks. We reached Fujairah, a small city, kindly of sleepy one. Only a few buildings decorated the city. We reached the berthing area and immediately boarded the yacht. It was a huge yacht, a pretty one. There are 6 rooms with ensuite toilet. As promised on the brochure, there were hot croissants and other bread with fresh fruits. Endless flow of coffee, juice, soft drinks and water.
when the yacht left the port, we were already eating. We chose to dine inside instead of outside, simply because the seats outside were already taken. After a healthy breakfast, we stayed outside and enjoyed the view, the cold air and did a lot of picture taking. The trip going to the swimming site was almost 2 hours. When we reached there, I was dismayed. It was exactly not what I have imagine and what their website promised.
The secluded bay, was exactly secluded. Lots of rocks and no trees. The water was not even good to swim at. If you want to scratch your body the whole day, you can jump right into the water with jelly fish everywhere. Plus the water is filled with algae and oil spill. We didn't dare to take a dive. Then we boarded back to the yacht for lunch. Around, 2:00 pm lunch was served. I must admit, the healthy lunch was very sumptuous. Around 3:00 pm we left the area to go back to Fujairah. sun bathing was the best way to while the time. I end up sleeping.
After a few zzzz's we have docked. And its time to go back to Dubai. We arrvied in Dubai around 7:00 pm. As much as we like Dubai, we can't visit the malls anymore because we have work the following day. Sadness. All in all, despite the downside of the whole trip, we enjoyed riding the yacht. It was a luxurious experience. Maybe next time they will change the venue so more tourists and expats will try to avail of their services.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Celebrate Vday Like a Sheik

It has been two days since the big heart's day but still, it is never too late to extend it till the weekend. What with Valentine's falling on a workday, naturally you'd end up calling in sick the following day so you could celebrate this big day with a bang. But what if there are options where you don't have to lie to your boss about the headache-stomache-pain-all-over excuse? And yes, there are options. Luckily I found informations from Abu Dhabi Life where you can celebrate Valentine's over the weekend:

The Monarch, Dubai
Mandara Spa Valentine’s package includes couple traditional body polish, Balinese massage and refresher facial for two hours.
Price: AED 950 per couple
Contact: 04 501 8888 for more information and reservation.

Six Senses Zighy Bay Oman

 Activities includes a rejuvenating couple’s journey at the award-winning spa, a fun and engaging Arabic cooking class with Zighy’s chef. Dining experience atop the resort’s tower or Sense on the Edge, 293 metres above sea level.
Price: $ 875 per person per night.
Contact: +968 2673 5555

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara

Romantic dunes of the Liwa Desert with complimentatary Valentine’s chocolates on arrival. Unwind together and soothe your sense in the Anantara spa with a 90-minute Desert Romance Massage and toast to the occasion with a glass of bubbles post –massage. The decadent experience continues into the evening with a private three-course candlight dinner in the dunes, served by your own private chef and buter
Price: AED 4760
Contact 02 886 2088
Desert islands Resort & Spa by Anantara

Unwind with a 90-minute massage at the Anantara spa. As you head into the evening, meander down to the idyllic beach for your private three-course candlelight dinner and devour gastronomic delights accompanied by a bottle of bubbly.
Price: AED 3620
Contact: 02 801 5400
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in the comfort of your own room as the Ritz-Carlton Dubai transforms your balcony into a private dining haven. Enjoy a customized four-course menu and a bottle of exclusive bubbles served by your personal butler. A bouquet of roses is included Price:
AED 2000 per couple
Contact: 04 318 6150
Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach

Flowers and chocolates are a good start , but what could be a better way to impress that special someone on Valentine’s Day than with an unforgettable meal in a romantic restaurant? Experience a special six-course Venetian menu while listening to a live violinist. AED 675 per couple, inclusive of a glass of Italian bubbly or welcome mocktail or AED 975 per couple, inclusive of a glass of Italian bubbly and beverage pairing from Veneto region.
Contact: 04 448 4860
Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah

Only an hour’s drive from Dubai, this hidden getaway is nestled between the Hajaar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, making for some breath taking views. For your special romantic getaway enjoy a two night stay complete with breakfast, a therapeutic massage and plently of chocolates, flowers and bubbly to keep you refreshed. On Valentine’s Day enjoy a sumptuous three-course meal, complete with bubbles, to truly treat your partner.
Price: AEd 3300
Contact: 09 244 9700
Atlantis, The Palm

If you are planning a little rest and relaxation with your loved one this Valentine’s Day, ShuiQi Spa & Fitness at Atlantis is offering The Couples Indulgence Signature Treatment comprising of three hours of pure luxury in the Royal Spa Suite. A gift to the senses, which incorporates a cleansing ceremony, a combination of different massage techniques and the healing of Hawaiian Lomi Lomi is sure to suit your needs.
Price: AED 3360
Contact: 04 426 1000
Al Hamra Fort and Beach Resort

 Located on the stunning white beaches of Ras al Khaimah, head over to this resort to escape from the big city stresses and reconnect with your partner. To truly make your Valentine’s Day experience sparkle, how about dining under the stars? Celebrate your love with a deluxe four-course set menu, complete with caviar and bubbles. Sitting in the secluded garden gazebo at the Le Chalet Garden area for a private way to enjoy the inky black sky as you linger over your meal.
Price: AED 1499
Contact: 07 244 6666
Banyan Tree Al Wadi Banyan Tree

Al Wadi offers city dwellers a unique retreat this Valentine’s, imagine; whisking your loved one to a sanctuary for the senses, a luxurious villa with all the amenities and more. With the dramatic allure of Al Wadi nature reserve as a backdrop, dine beneath a starlit sky with a private butler on hand serving your chosen BBQ. Or for the most intimate of tete-a-tetes, ascend to the dramatic Saffron Tower where a personal butler will orchestrate your dinners amidst soft sand dunes and the resort’s Bedouin tented villas Price: AED 1499
Contact: 07 206 7604
Oh, if the price is too stiff on your wallet, why not watch a Philippine Azkals kick balls at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on 16 February 2012 (shameless plugging - I'm not even watching but an officemate is!) Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Red Letter Day

The countdown for the V day has already began.  By the time the calendar hits February every malls will be putting down the christmas garlands while putting up Cupid.  *Sigh* Love.  What can I say?  It can make you cry, laugh and completely gaga. So for those who are into the big hoolah over the red letter day, plans should be finalized by now.  And if your are stuck in a new city like Abu Dhabi I have some list I got from Abu Dhabi Life where you can spend your moolah and have a little lovin' at some of the city's restaurants on Valentine's Day

Gourmet Abu Dhabi Promotion at Beach Rotana
Chef Claire Clark of the three (3) Michelin starred The French Laundry will be preparing desserts and pastries on V-day from February 14-17, 2012 at Rodeo Grill and Café Columbia.
Contact: 02 697 9000 for more information and reservation

Café Arabia
A three-source set menu on the open air rooftop overlooking the Mushrif Park for AED 150 per perso with complimentary tea or coffee.
Contact: 02 643 9699 for more information and reservation

Marakesh Restaurant, Millenium Hotel
Moroccan inspired meal with a bottle of grape beverage, belly dancers and singers for AED 750 per couple.  The party starts at 8 pm.
Contact: 02 614 6000 for more information and reservation

Flavours, Sheraton Hotel
Indian cuisine buffet with live music for AED 185 including bottomless red and white wine and AED 150 with beverage. 
Contact: 02 677 333 for more information and reservation.

Bravo, Sheraton Abu Dhabi
Serves tapas dinner for a group of people with free flow of Spanish beverage for AED 155 per person.
Contact: 02 677 333 for information and reservation

Benihana, Beach Rotana
Features four-course menu for AED 249 per person with a glass of bubbly.
Contact: 02 697 9000 for more information and reservation

Boccassio, Intercontinental Hotel
Features a four(4) course set menu with a bottle of bubbly for AED 650 per couple.
Contact: 02 666 6888 for more information and reservation

Hoi An, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
Features a special four-course menu with welcome drinks and flowers for the ladies for AED 500 per couple.
Contact: 02 509 8555 for more information and reservation.

Afya, Traders Hotel Qaryat al Beri
Dinner for AED 125 person with a welcome rose and chocolate for the ladies.  It includes bottomless beverages.
Contact: 02 510 8818 for more information and reservation

Free chocolate-covered strawberries and bubbly at the terrace of Allure during sunset for couples.
Contact: 02 657 5400 for more information and reservation

La Veranda Restaurant, Sheraton Khalidiya
Valentine buffet for AED 400 per couple.
Contact: 02 666 6220 for more information and reservation

Abu Dhabi City Golf Club
Dinner buffet for AED 150 with bubbles and roses for the ladies.
Contact: 02 445 9600 for more information and reservation

The Park Bar & Grill, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Offers  four-course set menu for AED 1500 per couple with a bottle of bubbly.

Jones The Grocer
Three-course dinner for AED 299 per head.  The meal includes matched beverage for every course.

Now, the list will continue to grow, but for now, this is quite a selection of options depending on your budget, your time and your  zeal in celebrating Valentine's Day.

HostGator promos

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Cup of Decaf from the Top

It was two weeks ago when one of my girlfriends celebrated her (ahem!) 26th birthday again.  A lunch out will not likely bring bonding moments as lunch breaks are only good for an hour and a half.  So we decided to have super heavy quick lunch (i don't know how we did it but it is actually possible) and bond over a cup of Joe after work.

We are a loyal fan of (this is a shameless plugging of...)of Starbucks.  I know it's overly hyped but, we loved the coffee plus this coffee shop don't have shisha-ers (if there is such a word).  We get to inhale coffee air and not any other kind of air.  But for that night we decided to try other coffee brewers in town.  The pick of the night - Cafe Colombiano.

I'm not sure where I've heard of this cafe but I went along.  We went to Abu Dhabi Marina Mall.  So I was a bit delighted when they told me that the cafe is the one at the top of the tower.  If you are familiar with the mall, it has a tower, which is well known for the revolving restaurant at the top of it.  Tiara, the revolving restaurant, is almost always packed so you need to have a reservation.  And I thought we were going there.  Not quite.  You see, that disc-like part of the tower has two floor.  The top floor is for Tiara and the lower part is for Colombiano coffee shop.  If you look at the tower at night.  You'd see two lights surrounding the structure on top of the tower.  The blue light is for Tiara and the yellow one is for Colombiano.

Getting there, you go inside the mall and straight into the ice rink, you'd see the colombiano cafe at the back of that cafe you would see two lifts.  Ushers will meet you there and will ask you where you want to go.  The left side lift is for the coffee shop and the right side is for the restaurant.  We were ushered to the left lift and off we go.

 When we reached the coffee shop we checked the place and looked for the perfect spot.  But you know what, everywhere is a good spot.  Since it is a circular structure every angle has a good view.  We took a seat and check out what is in the menu.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to read the menu because the place was so dark.  Each table only has one tea light to illuminate the area.  It was really dark.  Maybe this is for us to enjoy the view.

We ordered, two orders of french fries, two orders of mushroom omelette, hot white chocolate, some ice cream and some cold frape.  It took some time for our orders to arrive.  We were informed that something to do with the kitchen down stairs. So when it finally arrived, we were so excited to taste everything.  I must say, their fries was perfectly cooked.  Not oily but crispy.  The omellete was also good, it has some toasts and marmalade.  The sad part is the hot white choco we ordered.  It was too sweet.  We ordered water to add into our drinks, unfortunately it was still sweet.  Didn't enjoyed the drink much.

The staff was also friendly, they even sang happy birthday with a little chocolate tart for our friend.  The night went well, despite the sweet drinks.  The venue was romantic, the food was alright and the company was perfect.  All in all, a good night.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Get High by Shopping in Dubai

Just when the Christmas and New Year fever subsided and the pockets are already empty, Dubai announced their annual DSF 2012.  I remember, last year, I just started my job when the DSF started, Imagine how sad I was when every store and malls in Dubai must be screaming with huge discounts.  Oh, and DSF simply means – Dubai Shopping Festival.

Like in Singapore, they have the Great Singapore Sale annually celebrated on the last week of May until the third week of June, Dubai has the DSF.  This year it started on January 5, 2012 and will be ending on February 5, 2012.  This one month super sale is for all malls and shopping stores in Dubai.  Since, I was not able to grab hold of anything cheap last year, this year I came prepared to conquer Dubai.  

We left Abu Dhabi a bit early on a Friday.  Unfortunately we got stuck on one of our purpose in going to Dubai, we were looking for the Dubai Marina Yacht Club.  The Interchange in Dubai is very confusing.  Anyway, our first stop was supposed to be Emirates Mall.  Unfortunately again, we were not able to go inside the mall.  We didn’t have trouble finding the mall, we got inside the parking area and my husband made a wrong move we ended up going out of the mall again.  Basically we just sniffed the parking area of Emirates Mall.  For outsiders like us, the road map is too complicated to check again and again.  So we decided to go straight to my favorite mall, Dubai Mall.  

Once inside the busy mall, I was so overwhelmed.  Every store hung red posters with the word emblazoned in white color word SALE.  The mall was discount heaven.  We went from one shop to another.  And we have to control ourselves from spending too much.  Everything was bottom price.  Giddy!  If you are a slippers addict, Havaianas are selling their basic slippers AED 30.00 only.  Even Billabong sells men’s slippers AED 30.00 also.  Home Center in Dubai are also on sale up to 70% discount.  Most beach apparels and winter clothes are priced at the lowest.  I’ll attach some of our purchases which I must admit are pretty good buys.

We didn’t spend the entire day at Dubai Mall, we have to leave early again for some other commitments.  With a sad face I have to bid the mall and all stores on sale goodbye.  Till the next year I guess.    

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Say It Loudly with Body Language

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week now.  And whenever I think about it or see someone do it, it never ceased to make me laugh.  It - being the body language of Abu Dhabi.  And what makes it funnier is that it is practically rubbing on my husband.  I have to generalize it as Abu Dhabi because some of the gestures are made by non-Arabic nationality but still very rampant in this city.
The first body language is the kissing-five-fingers.  How do I describe this?  This gesture is made using all five fingers meet in the middle like a kiss but pointing upward.  The Arabs call this “shwei-shwei.”  It means “for a while” or “wait a minute” or “please wait.”  The first time I saw this gesture I was a bit taken aback.  I thought it was something negative like I was given the finger (*grin*).  Sorry.  Good this it was explained.  The funny thing about this is it was used as traffic sign.  On a congested road going to the church one time, a bus wanted to cut in line with the flow, so instead of the usual traffic manual sign of raising your arm his hand showed the “shwei-shwei” sign.  So much for the traditional traffic hand signs.
The second body language is the semi-raised arm with the closed palm.  And I thought this hand language is for those who are doing declamation or doing debates in the senate.  I was wrong.  Still with the traffic issues, a time when a huge car stopped in the middle of the road and causing traffic congestion.  This hand gesture is courtesy of my husband which he, as he insisted, got it from other Arab drivers.  The action was just like semi-raising his arm and looking at the driver who went out of the car blocking the way.  The driver’s reply was the “shwei-shwei” sign.  Then my husband continued to show his palm.  It was like they were shouting/talking with hand gestures.  For me, it was very funny.
This third body language is often used by non-Arabs.  This one is courtesy of the Indians.  I call this the sideways head bobbing.  I don’t actually know how to describe it, the movement is similar with those toys you put on your dashboards of your car with bobbing heads, but in sideways motion.  This head motion means “yes” or “its ok” or “no problem.”  But there are still some times that I don’t understand what it means, but basically it means yes.
Another body language, still used by non –Arabs is the hand raised with one twist movement.  It is like moving your hand in a left-right movement but with one swift motion.  Per my husband it means, “What?”  This completely baffles me.  I can’t believe that this hand movement could actually mean a thing.
Despite the peculiarity of these movements, people here in Abu Dhabi are able to communicate.  I don’t’ know how they could come up with this language but it sure does deliver the message.