Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Dubai

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Dubai
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“It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”- Asian Proverb

Just because we chose to fly with Emirates A380 for our Euro tour we are given 2 nights’ accommodation stay at Dubai for free from Amsterdam before going back to Singapore. This is actually an exciting add-on to our trip and huge bonus as we have never been there. Upon reaching Dubai we are all exhausted and don’t have energy to do much activities like dessert tour we opted to just hang around the city and went mall-ing.  Dubai is known as the “shopping capital of the Middle East” and they have marvellous malls indeed!

Dubai is one of seven states and largest city that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country formed in 1971 from individual sheikdoms. The residents savoured the 0% on tax and crime rate as it is considered one of the safest cities on earth. The law is very strict and inhabitants are maintained with full of the morality. Dubai is considered one of the richest city ergo there are ATMs that dispense gold bars, the police fleet includes a Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley so as to catch speeders who can outrun other car makes.  Emiratis are provided with free education, free medical and free housing.  Before the oil was discovered in 1966, Dubai’s car registration number stopped at 13. As of 2012, there are now more than 1.13 million registered cars in Dubai. Even though the car industry has and still is going through hard times, companies like Ford, Volvo, Porsche, Hyundai, BMW and Toyota increased their sales in 2012 by between 7% and 40%.

The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall in terms of total area for some reasons we kept coming back there because it’s massive with fabulous range of designer shops. It has an indoor aquarium, skating rink, and Armani Café? This mall trumps all mall in terms of size and selection of shops you will not know where to start and It is very posh indeed. Movie buff as we are we catch up with the latest cinema there – Christopher Nolan’s Superman

Have a sight of the tallest man-made structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It holds the world records for most floors in a building (163), world’s highest restaurant (n the 122nd floor), world’s highest nightclub (on its 144th floor) and world’s longest elevator travel distance (504m). See the show the Fountain at the Burj Khalifa is the most powerful and biggest automated fountain in the world. It can shoot water 130 metres high — as high as a 50-storey building

 

63166_10151181962002918_1240098170_n598998_10151181961692918_1659820006_n“It’s better to be ashore wishing you were at sea, than at sea wishing you were ashore.” (The former is generally inspired by longing, the latter by panic.) – Anonymous

I grew up watching the price is right on TV. I was always fascinated with the prices they gave away on that show and how Bob Hope’s signature intonation presentation of the showcases always left the contestants grasping for air, like ‘… a brand new car!’ or ‘…a trip to Bahamas!’ it was so extravagant and fun to watch comparing it to winning ‘…a sack of rice’ in our local shows or whatever bingo social events. In my young mind, this show has made me aware of the stuff I wanted to acquire when I grow up more so, it made me aware that there’s ‘…a royal Caribbean cruise…’

A cruise is traveling in a passenger ships used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship’s amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way. For the longest time I have always wanted to go on a holiday cruise and know how it feels like being in the sea and just seeing the great blue ocean for days.  While attending a travel fair, I finally get the chance to inquire more about this type of journey and booked myself 3 days, 2 night’s trip to Malacca, Malaysia.

Malacca is 5 hours’ drive off Singapore and I haven’t been there so the thought of travelling there via the Royal Caribbean liner was an exciting idea. The thought of getting sea sick is a possibility in my head reason why I decided not to go to long journeys or take a cruise to nowhere. A cruise to nowhere is a cruise without ports of call but it doesn’t really actually go nowhere – in fact, ships on these short voyages head out to sea to a point where opening on board stores and casinos is legal, and passengers can spend their time on the ship enjoying all the activities and amenities without being distracted by port preparations and time in the dock..  The trip to Malacca, Malaysia was a test the water for me before taking the plunge on long voyages.

311194_10151177907267918_1892138284_nCome first week of November 2012 I was on board the Legend of the Seas. This was the first of the Vision Class cruise ships owned by the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The ship can carry 2,074 passengers. Its maiden voyage was May 16, 1995. Its facilities include a golf course, a theatre and cinema, a solarium, two pools, a spa, a fitness centre, a 2 story dining room called the Romeo & Juliet, the Windjammer Cafe, 4 themed bars, a dance centre, a shopping centre, a teen disco, a piano bar, an observation centre, a rock-climbing wall and the Viking Crown Lounge.

A piece of history, cruising begun in 1835, Arthur Anderson proposed the idea of sailing for pleasure as a passenger in an ocean going vessel. Sailing for pleasure did not really become popular until the twentieth century. The word ‘POSH’ originates from this period. In these days before air conditioning the Brits travelling on a vessel to India would favour a cabin on the shaded side of the ship, away from the glare and heat of the sun. Thus travelling from UK to India a north facing port cabin cost more than a south facing starboard one. The opposite applied on the return journey. So only the richest could book a cabin that was PORT OUT STARBOARD HOME. This became shortened to ‘posh’.

But cruising got crushed by the development of the jet engine and long haul passenger aircraft saw a dramatic reduction in passengers using these ships. The decline began in the late 1950’s and resulted in ships like the Queen Elizabeth becoming redundant. By the 1970’s the advent of the Jumbo jet really saw the end of the golden period of transatlantic cruise liners.

Back to my experience, all food and accommodation are included in the fee so you just eat want you want, buffet breakfast and lunch and fine dining or 3 course meal for dinner. The room was fine, it’s suffocating at first but I got the hang of it when I was declined for a transfer for a much bigger room with balcony because the accommodation was already full. So I watched some shows, went into the casino, hang in the pool area while eating pizza and got off at Malacca when we arrived in the morning.

There is a timeframe when you can stay out because the boat will be heading back at 5pm. There’s this small boat that took us to the dock and we just walk around until our feet took us to a mall and ate at McDonalds. We hang in the mall looking for spa and massage but since we don’t have appointments we ended up waiting and moving to other malls searching for spa saloon who accepts master and visa and money changer because we don’t have their local money until it was time for us to go back to the mother ship or otherwise we will get left behind like ET and phone home. So it was just a frustrating experience for us. We should have hopped on a cab and went to Fort A Famosa, St. John’s Fort, St. Peter’s Church, etc. we might have enjoyed the place.

46504_10151181962982918_750804650_nFacts about Ships

1. From the time of the Vikings up to today, ships have used figureheads to ward off evil sea serpents and represent the spirit of the ship. This carved wood figure, placed on the bow of the ship, had no function other than to “see the way”. In addition, it was believed that a storm could be calmed by a woman exposing her breasts. This is why ship’s figureheads are often of naked women.

2. The original unsinkable man was Frank Tower survived the sinking of the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Empress of Ireland.

3. Long ago the least-valued member of the crew was sometimes sacrificed in the event of bad weather. This crewmember was often the poor cook.

4. Sailors have adopted beliefs that animals, birds, names, even whistling, can all be dire omens at sea. These beliefs are taken so seriously that the British Admiralty still takes enormous care in naming ships in the fleet. Reptile names are almost completely banned nowadays. The Navy, in the past, lost 4 Vipers, 4 Serpents, a Cobra, an Adder, an Alligator, and a Crocodile. They also lost 2 Snakes, 2 Dragons, and Lizards.

5. Perhaps the most curious of all beliefs at sea is that whistling is often banned. Whistling was thought to encourage high winds and was allowed only when the ship was becalmed or shrouded in mist.

Sibu Island, Malaysia

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Malaysia
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“No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” – Denis Waitley

I missed the company outing last year in Desaru, Malaysia because my ass spent 2 weeks in Switzerland and France. For this year 2012, for our annual office outing,  less than 5 hours away from Singapore (20 minutes by ferry) lays Sibu Island Johor, Malaysia where we  indeed experienced that orange sunset, clear emerald blue sea, soothing tropical breeze and white sandy beaches.

The Sibu Archipelago lies only 30 minutes from the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The archipelago is rich in natural beauty and Most of these islands continue to be uninhabited but some has various resorts like the one we visited –SIbu Island Resort http://www.sibuislandresort.com.my/ This 20 acres island is surrounded by powder milk sand has its own hilly terrain jungle track, mini zoo with a number of uncaged deer just roaming around the garden surrounded by pine trees. A number of amenities are also there like the tennis and volleyball court, swimming pool, game room (billiards and Ping-Pong) and the karaoke bar that is open until 1am for free.

Also, there are complimentary activities that we did try like the zip line and archery. We also went for snorkelling where they took us in a secluded island and left us there for 2 hours with just goggles, life vest, and fins. Well, the island was actually picture perfect and the sand was fine that it reminded of the beach at my mother’s hometown where she used to exile me and my siblings for 2 months during school break when were young.

You need not throw yourself far-flung just to see the fishes, they are very visible waist high but for those who did make an effort they found nemo and dory. My colleagues managed to see the corals with clown fish, blue tang, etc. while I walked along the shoreline feeling like richard-brandson and enjoying my own private island (http://www.neckerisland.virgin.com/)

The accommodation was nice as my colleague and I managed to score the layang-layang suite that has 2 bedrooms, shared bath and living room. The cottage was all wood and the style was like old Malaysian housing. The food was so-so, a good insect repellent is a must, and the spa massage was expensive and you have to queue because they only have one masseuse. While the rest of the time was ours to waste the only activities that are compulsory to attend was the buffet dinner night with 70’s hippy dippy theme and the relay games organized by the resort – which was a lot of fun.

I really enjoyed the office outing it’s the one weekend I get to connect with my colleagues outside the workplace and I like that our company has budget to include their partners and kids as well.  So here’s looking forward to the next one… Cheers!

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey” – Fitzhugh Mullan

I will always remember how excited I was on my first travel outside the country, the experience of setting foot on a foreign soil, hearing voices that don’t speak my language, and the friends who walked those unfamiliar streets of Hong Kong with me.  After 11 years, the same trio of city slickers ride again to explore Asia, but this time around the destination is the capital of Taiwan.  the largest city of the country and one of the most densely populated urban area in the world. Taiwan is same size as Switzerland and Belgium

As usual, these bunch of lazies come unprepared with just 2 or 3 sights to see and the rest, we will have our feet do the walking…

Fine dining @ Taipei 101– Taiwan’s financial centre located at Xinyi District. The building ranked officially as the world’s tallest from 2004 until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. Daily the tower’s lights display one of seven colours in the spectrum from Monday to Sunday and they are as follows:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. We were there on a Sunday so we witnessed the purple colour. Located on floors 89 and 91, the observation decks include the highest restaurant in Taiwan and this is where we dine.

There are 2 restaurants in this landmark, Diamond Tony’s 101 Observatory Restaurant which serves Italian food, and Shin Yeh on the 85th floor which serves Taiwanese food. We opted for Shin Yeh because of the absence of pasta in the Italian resto. The food was superb but too much because we have to spend 1,400 NTD (incl. tax) the minimum pay per head in order to have a table and there were four us and the dishes are not that really pricey. This is one of the best Chinese restaurants my taste buds had, as a wine tickles the palate with its joyous sensations, dining at the fine restaurant and viewing Taipei city at night is definitely an unforgettable experience.

Shilin Night market -is a night market in the Shilin District of Taipei, Taiwan, and is often considered to be the largest and most famous night market in the city. This is where we found that powerful scarf that can do anything and we pride ourselves that we struck a great bargain acquiring the 21 pcs of it as souvenier gifts.

Modern Toilet– A bathroom themed restaurant, it’s odd you might say but Taiwan also has restaurants that resemble jailhouses and hospitals. I’m scared of public toilet this is actually a horror movie for me. If i can hold my pee until I get home, I will so you can imagine my lack of appetite in this place.   The chairs are toilet bowls; dishes are served in miniature toilet bowls, and drinks in miniature urinals, chocolate dessert designed like pooh and you are going to wash your hands not in a sink but in a toilet bowl eeewww!!..  It was fun but once is more than enough for me.

My ex-colleague was kind enough to give us her weekend and showed us around the city. She took us to this local restaurant name JIN DIN ROU. Apparently, the owner of this restaurant was an ex chef of my favourite restaurant hailed by The New York Times as one of the world’s top 10 restaurant, DIN TAI FUNG– specialising in xiao long bao. I also liked JIN DIN ROU the menu are very similar. My friend told me that Din Tai is sort of touristy and there’s always a long queue.

Taiwanese are pleasant and friendly immediately we noticed that and also I want to mention this hotel http://www.sunworlddynasty.com.tw/html/2009/Eng/Index.html. the location is very convenient and the staffs are cordial. It’s near to Taipei 101 and Shilin Market and the buffet breakfast was great.

Krabi

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Thailand
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Giant crab statue- Krabi,Thailand

Krabi is in the southern part of Thailand facing the Andaman Sea. Like our weekend in Phuket https://ellehctur.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/phuket/ the weather was glum and it looks as though a typhoon was in the area and will stay for the rest of the weekend. Note to self! the best time to visit famous beaches of Thailand is between the months of November to April …damn that groupon deals! This is what a get for being a cheapskate! Anyways, we never let this negativity dampen our spirit, in spite of, we managed to enjoy the hotel, the massage and the main street of Ao Nang which is dominated by restaurants, pubs, and shops.

While on the plane for one and half hours, I was contemplating on taking a boat ride to Phi Phi Island for a swim and indulge myself for some water sports and activities but since the climate was not at all pleasant and we tour the islands when we had our trip in Phuket, we opted for Elephant trekking instead which later on was a big regret. Located in the forest of Tumbon Khao Thong, Krabi. One hour elephant ride will take you through rubber plantations and nearby streams. The seat is only wide enough for two adults so the guide has to seat on top of its head. I was in awe seeing an uncaged elephant; they are such gentle giant, so the minute I stepped on its back I was overwhelmed with pity for this calm creature. So pitiful that if a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) happened to passed by and threw stones at me I won’t lift a finger to pick a fight. Anyways, as we are swaying to the rhythm of the elephants footsteps so high up while holding an umbrella, we jokingly imagined we now know how it felt like being a ‘haciendera’ scouting their plantation estate. Everything was going smooth until I noticed that there’s something wrong with our Dumbo (Note: I’m calling it Dumbo in reference to the Disney cartoon of the same name) , it loves to eat but only picks the branches nearest to the cliff, I worry it might slipped and fell on us and we get crushed by it (karma much?). Right there and then, I was arguing with myself, I should have rented a motorbike instead of going for this trek. At least with the bike I have the control with Dumbo we don’t stand a chance; it has a mind of its own with a big appetite. Dumbo kept eating and eating, our guide had a hard time swaying it to pace because it just want to stay in a cliff and eat. At one point the scent of the wet leaves and grass changed to a bog of eternal stench because from all that eating Dumbo took a pooh and by far that’s the biggest dung I have seen in my entire life. The last part of the trek is what freaked me out. Dumbo went to a secluded running stream. I felt that this is not part of its routine and Dumbo is the boss of us and our guide can’t do much. Instead of just crossing the running stream, it strolled along the running stream until only its trunk and we are what’s left visible of the muddy water. Though its whole body was submerged into murky stream, its trunk kept tugging branches and small trees are crushing down with every pull. All throughout, I was holding on tight to my umbrella thinking that one of the branches it yanked might include a snake…Oooohhh my imagination gets the best of me when I’m fearful. My friend was pissed because of my negativity but all I was thinking was how to jump off and save her. So this is my first and last ride with the mighty Dumbo.

We went back to the hotel in one piece and made fun of our experience with Dumbo and its giant dung. Our friends are already there from the Island hopping trip so we availed our free Thai massage. This is my least favourite type of message because it involves a combination of stretching and gentle rocking, and uses a range of motions and acupressure techniques. The massage is oil free and performed on a mattress on the floor with your clothes on. It’s not like I want to get naked but I find this type not soothing to my taste so instead of ahhhh…ohhhh…you can hear me say  awwww…ouuccchhhh….No! No! No….

Bintan

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Indonesia
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‘…people don’t take trips – trips take people’ – Steinbeck

All in all Indonesia has 17,000 islands and Bintan Island or Negeri Segantang Lada is one of them. The closest major city is a 45-50 minute trip by motorized boat is Singapore, so close that the currency is still Singapore Dollars not Rupiah. Indonesia is promoting Bintan as the next best tourist destination after Bali but I actually enjoyed the sands and sea in Bintan than in Bali, the sands are white and waves are not that strong. We stayed in one of the villas in Nirwana Gardens. The resort was really vast and immense. The scenery and landscape was relaxing enough for me.

This is my second time in Bintan. I stayed in Bintan Lagoon Resort the first time but have no recollection of the place. So I guess the first time was that forgettable that every time I retrieved the memory all I can summon up was Desaru (Also a resort near Singapore but part of Malaysia). This trip is kind of’ different because I’m comfortable and appreciative of the place, for one I like our villa. This was a company outing so apart from the free accommodation; I get to travel with my colleagues. The villa was 2 storey, 3 bedrooms, and 3 baths. All the rooms (master and common rooms) are in the 2nd floor and the kitchen, dining, living room, plus porch are in the ground floor. It’s like your own house with the sea attached to it.

On the first night we went to Pasar Oleh Oleh for dinner you have to travel 20 minutes by ride going there. The roads are dark so it’s a must to have your own transport. It’s all local food if you want to get away from hotel food this is the place to be. Apart from restaurants there are local shops. The food was nice and authentic I never liked satay but I learned to eat it here. But I missed the beef rendang – my favorite Indonesian food of all time. I asked for it but the waiter didn’t note it down – bummer!

The food, spirits and booze are to be found in our villa so people gathered in our place before going to bed…Actually this was the busiest villa in all villas. The charade, drinking, card playing, socializing was all done here. So me and my roommates played hosts to all of the activities and organized it.

Lacoste

On the first night, Swavek (my Polish colleague) informed me that they saw a big lizard walking to our villa, then also Freddie with wife Tina told me of this encounter with huge like komodo dragon lizard living in the sewer near our villa. I was so freaked out because Ewwwww… I was walking on the grass, alone in the night the first time we were there. I was ogling at the moon and the sea and the place was not very well lit. I could have bitten or pin down by that slimy creature and these thoughts haunted me all thru out the trip.

In the morning I avoided the grass and I was full alert, walking to the main hotel for my breakfast I joined my other colleagues since my roomies are still asleep. My Indian colleague’s husband, Aniz showed me a photo of this giant live lacoste lurking in the villas. He happened to saw it in their porch while watching TV and took photo of it. He showed it me and jokingly said it was looking for me… OMG! It was so big… I can barely look at it. He said he called room service and they tried to capture it but it escaped. Nenad (my Australian colleague) was listening intently and was determine to haunt it down. On the way back home to the ferry he showed me pictures of this big lizard, bigger than what Aniz has showed me. That’s why earlier I saw Nen lurking around our villas. This guy pulled a Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) just for an up close photo.

FYI… I didn’t put the pictures of the giant lizard here…creepy! I’m waiting for it to turn into a bag or shoes then I will place it here.

Banana Boat

We are doing water sports… we asked Dharma (my Indonesian colleague) to join us in banana boat he was keen. For somebody who was born in Bali he doesn’t like the sea and sand that much. He has zero experience with banana boat and water sports. Prior to this I went for body boarding and others, jet ski.

When we were about to board in the banana boat, Dharma was hesitant to join. After sometime of bullying and verbally abusing him of his cowardice, he agreed to get his ass on the boat. The sea was rough that after sometime both I and dharma took the plunged…I was still smiling having thrown out in the water, but then I saw dharma shaking, scared to death of his predicament. Secretly, I got scared too, he was shaking and the fear of drowning was very evident in his eyes. I put all my attention on him, to ignore my fear as well. I asked him to just look at me and I heard myself saying…. ‘We are floating’, ‘we are floating’, ‘nothing to fear’, ‘the boat is coming back’. He asked if he could hold my hand while shaking uncontrollably. The boat arrived and we’re saved! Dharma spent the rest of the ride in the boat and avoided the banana boat. For me and 6 more people in the ride…the fun continues…. Hiyahhh! Bring it on!

On our last night, after the Hawaiian buffet dinner and dozens of barbecue crab later. We hang out in our villa just chatting. Some of my officemates drinks a lot having lived in a cold country, they enjoyed booze and sprits but somehow I find it amazing that most drink moderately for this trip. No vomiting or getting drunk happened except for this French guy (Jeremy) who every time I look, he always has a bottle in his hand and it’s not water…. People in my company is very diverse, we are one or a few in every nationality so it follows that everybody has different views on one topic whether it’s religion, politics, or beliefs. Conversing with them added more knowledge and information for my side. I asked my atheist colleague how it felt like, when bombarded with difficulties in life, no God to ask for help or to turn to.. They said they just cannot do much except accept that shit happens. That sometimes having nothing to turn to gets lonely at times but that’s their belief. Some don’t believe in having a soul or ghost and would be glad to see one especially Jeremy who wants to play spirit of the glass and summon the soul of Jack Daniels… it’s not enough drinking the brand he has to really talk to the maker.

Like most of my out of the country trip, this ended with whole body massage for 27$ cha! ching! . The place was really big we had to ride in a golf cart just to get from point a to point b. Apart from water sports they have good sports bar, bowling place, tennis, shooting range, horseback riding. etc….It was a very unwinding weekend experience for me.

 

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it…. People think pleasing God is all God care about.  But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”  – Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982

Let me start off by saying that I’m definitely not a vegetarian, I’m a carnivore. I do love meat but I thought I’d try out The Farm at San Benito. I have been eyeing the farm for a visit when I read a blog regarding this place. It wasn’t the fanciest resort I’ve ever stayed at, but it was definitely top quality. It was all natural. It’s a wellness retreat with a spa/massage services and consultant who will give you recommendations during your stay. You would be greeted by nature through its lush coconut plantation and tropical trees here and there with the smell of lemon grass all over.

It’s a 3-hour drive from Manila, We booked for an overnight stay and arrived passed 3pm. there are complimentary daily activities that you can choose from like yoga, meditation, power walking, trail walking, jogging, etc. We attended  meditation session and decided to walk around  the whole place holding a map and a flashlight. The place was amazing and huge,  it was nature at its best the scenery was awesome. The guests are mostly foreigners, the room that we stayed in was a 2 storey nipa hut and downstairs is the bathroom so good luck pissing in the middle of then night there’s nothing much to do. There’s no TV in the room and the place was so dark and cold and all you can hear are insect noises reaping thru the silence. We decided to book the entertainment room and watched DVD-movie from their list (Brother’s Grim). We asked for assistance to take us to the area because it was all dark and we are scared like hell if we got lost. Our guide took us to this all glass room in the middle of the swamp where people from the outside will see what we are doing but from the inside looking out, its pitch dark. – Great setting for watching a medieval suspense/horror movie.

In the morning you will wake up to yoga and afterwards a five course breakfast affair. The foods are very well presented, most are delectable and flavorful but some are bland to taste, free of dairy of course. It consists of fruits with coconut yoghurt, healthy cereals with nut milk, tofu or corn scramble.

There are a couple of pools at The Farm, my favorite being the one outside of the spa. It’s an infinity pool overlooking the trees and the mountain. Yoga is offered twice a day, in a peaceful outdoor setting which definitely got my mornings off to a good start! There are a few other daily activities, such as Pilates, flower arrangement demonstrations etc. They have great gym and pool facilities. The staff at The Farm are all very accommodating and friendly. All in all, I’d say the farm is a very peaceful place, perfect for those who want to just get away from it all.

Discovering this idyllic place, I find myself filled with a  yearning to linger here, where time stands still and beauty  overwhelms.

 http://www.thefarm.com.ph/