My Memorable Trip to Singapore

September 24, 2017 at 12:56 AM | Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

I just got back from Singapore on a business trip and had such a wonderful time. I’ve never been to Singapore so I was really excited to go there. Granted that my stay there was only for three days, I had hoped to squeeze some personal time to do some sightseeing. And fortunately, I was able to do so.

Singapore at night

It was a good thing that the hotel I’m staying at was very near the Marina Bay, which is one of the major tourist attractions in Singapore. I only had to walk about 15 minutes to reach the place. It was night time when I first went to Marina Bay. I came back to the hotel after work then headed out to explore the area. Too bad I wasn’t able to ride the river cruise or watch the fountain show because I went there a bit late already. But I still had a fantastic time. Never would I have imagined that I would see the Marina Bay Sands for real, and I’m just awed when I saw it.

Marina Bay Sands

I also had the opportunity to visit the famous Orchard Road. But I wasn’t impressed by it and was actually disappointed when I got there. There was nothing much to see there except rows and rows of high-end malls selling branded items. Unless you are keen to shop for expensive things and have the money to splurge, Orchard Road is not worth seeing. For me, going there was just a waste of my time. I did not stay long there.

As a traveler, I’m more interested to see the local culture of the place instead of shopping at modern malls. I’d rather go to museums, cultural spots, art galleries and flea markets than go to the mall. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the museums in Singapore as I was pressed for time. I was really keen on visiting the ArtScience Museum within Marina Bay but there was just not enough time.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Anyway, I decided to go back to Marina Bay after I went to Orchard Road. My work colleagues in Singapore recommended that I visit Gardens by the Bay, which is just within Marina Bay. Of course, I couldn’t leave Singapore without trying the hawker food stalls there. So I went to Satay by the Bay and enjoyed a local meal there before heading to Gardens by the Bay, which was just a few strolls away.

I had such a fantastic time exploring Gardens by the Bay. The place is really huge and filled with greeneries. I loved it there and would have gone exploring the entire garden but I was in a rush that day because I had to catch my plane back to Manila.

ArtScience Museum in Singapore

Eye of Singapore

Despite of my short stay, I still had a great time visiting Singapore. Here’s hoping that I’ll be back there eventually.

My Dubai Experience

September 7, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Posted in Art, Food and Dining, Lifestyle, Shopping, Travel | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
The courtyard at Majlis Gallery

The courtyard at Majlis Gallery

Six months ago, if anyone told me I’d be traveling to Dubai I wouldn’t have believed him. But last August, I found myself packing my bags and heading off to Dubai for a month-long (well, almost) business trip. I’ve never been out of the country so imagine my anxiety just before I left for Dubai. Considering the fact that I’m going there alone for work didn’t lessen my anxiety. But after a few days of staying there, I gradually settled in comfortably.

Work-wise, my experience while I was in Dubai wasn’t that fantastic. There was so much work to do that I was always stressed out. I barely had time to eat. I was exhausted by the end of each day. My only consolation were the weekends when I got the chance to see the sights and explore the city.

XVA Art Hotel & Cafe

XVA Art Hotel & Cafe

mint & lemon juice with quinoia & zucchini kofta at XVA

mint & lemon juice with quinoia & zucchini kofta at XVA

Speaking of the city, my visit in Dubai came in an inopportune time. It’s the middle of summer there so the weather is scorchingly hot and humid. But being an excited traveler that I was and eager to explore, I bored the heat and traipsed my way to the Dubai Museum and the art galleries.

I had such a fun time at the art galleries in Al Fahidi (formerly known as Bastakiya). The art pieces from various and international artists were just amazing! Of course I’m talking about the art exhibits in Majlis Gallery and XVA Art Hotel and Cafe – two of the most popular art galleries in Dubai.

dhow boat

Weena aboard the dhow boat

me aboard a dhow boat at night

I also had the chance to try some of the local cuisines. Some I liked, some I didn’t. I particularly loved the kibbeh, kofta, falafel, and the hummus dip. But I absolutely fell in love with their famous mint lemonade (or mint and lemon juice)! It’s what I usually order every time I dined out.

Weena & Uncle Sanny on dinner cruise

My uncle who was based in Bahrain came to visit me on my third week and we explored the rest of the city together. We had a dinner cruise aboard a dhow boat and sailed along the Dubai Creek.

Weena_At the Top

And of course, my visit to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without going to the city’s two most recognizable attractions – the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world, standing at 828 meters high and having over 160 stories. It’s also the same building that Tom Cruise scaled in the movie, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Weena in At the Top, Burj Khalifa

me at the observation deck in Burj Khalifa

Weena in Burj Khalifa observation deck

Weena & Uncle Sanny inside Burj Khalifa

My uncle and I were able to go inside Burj Khalifa and got to see the spectacular views from the 124th and 125th floors of the building – the observation deck At the Top. True enough, the elevators were super fast! I think it took us only a minute or two to reach the 124th floor.

Weena at Dubai Mall overlooking Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa at night

Burj Khalifa at night

Weena with Burj Khalifa at nightBut perhaps to the general public, the most recognizable icon of Dubai is the Burj Al Arab – the world-famous building in the shape of a sail. Unfortunately though, my uncle and I weren’t able to go inside Burj Al Arab. Because you’re only allowed to go in if you have a reservation in one of the building’s restaurants. And to dine in one of the restaurants there was too expensive! So my uncle and I just contented ourselves with taking photos of the building while we were at the Jumeirah Open Beach. The beach was within the vicinity of Burj Al Arab and has a perfect view of the building.

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab

Weena with Burj Al Arab in background

We also visited the popular souks in Deira, particularly the spice and gold souks. The spice souk had rows and rows of different spices in splashes of vibrant colors. It’s simply visually stunning. Various teas and nuts were also on display. I had the chance to visit the textile and garment souk in Al Fahidi before my uncle arrived in Dubai. There were so much to buy there – from local and traditional clothes, pashminas, parasols, to bags, shoes, rugs, and souvenir items.

Weena in spice souk in Deira

me at the spice souk in Deira

textile souk in Al Fahidi

textile souk in Al Fahidi

But while the souks offer shoppers great bargains, the two biggest malls in Dubai provide the wealthy with the most high-end stores that they could find. The Dubai Mall, which is adjacent to the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai, is one of the largest malls in the world and boasts of having a collection of global brand names – from Armani, Dior, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, to Versace, Christian Louboutin, Ermenegildo Zegna, and many others. My uncle and I practically got lost while we were inside the mall.

Weena at Dubai Mall

me outside Dubai Mall

Another mall we visited was the Mall of the Emirates. It’s a bit smaller than Dubai Mall but also holds the same global brands. I actually prefer the interior design and architecture of Mall of the Emirates than the Dubai Mall mainly because of the former’s use of traditional, Islamic architecture, which I find really gorgeous.

My friends and coworkers kept telling me that I’m really lucky to have been given the opportunity to visit Dubai. I guess they’re right. Work aside, my experience in Dubai was one that I will never forget.

A Wedding and a Homecoming

December 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM | Posted in Musings, Travel | Leave a comment

Only a few more days left before Christmas and New Year and I’m excited already. Although I’ll be spending Christmas here in Manila, I will be coming home to Bicol for the New Year. It’s been years since I spent the New Year there. So much has changed in my hometown that I can’t wait to experience the New Year celebrations there again. Growing up in the province, I remember when my family and I used to spend the holidays together cooking and preparing for Noche Buena and New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, my family together with my cousins, aunts and uncles and I would gather at the balcony of our house and watch the fireworks. Now after years of spending the holidays in the big city, I’m really looking forward to ringing in the new year with my family in Bicol.

I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends from college again. One of them is actually getting married after the New Year and I’m excited to be at the wedding. I missed the weddings of my other three college buddies before because of conflicts in schedule and I’m just so glad that I will finally be able to make it this time around. My girl friends and I are considering this to be a reunion of sorts since it will be the first time that our group will be complete. You see, every time one of us in the group gets married, either one or two of us couldn’t attend. But now, my friend (the bride-to-be) couldn’t be happier that all of us will be at her wedding. I could only hope that all of them will also be present when I get married.

London Calling

October 21, 2014 at 8:29 PM | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

I had an interesting conversation with my uncle recently. My uncle, along with my sister and I have been planning to go on a vacation abroad next year. We’ve been discussing about it since early this year but we haven’t made up our minds yet on which place to visit. Our initial plan was to go to Malaysia but we eventually changed our minds and thought of other places to go. My sister and I are actually interested to visit Thailand but since my uncle has been there before, he suggested that we pick another.

If there is one thing that the three of us have in common, it is that we love to explore and experience different cultures. We’re not the kind of travelers whose main agenda in visiting a country is to go shopping. I, for one, love arts and culture. I’d rather visit museums and watch cultural shows than go to a mall and shop.

My uncle suggested that we visit China because he wants to see the Great Wall. But my sister and I are not really keen on going to China. For me, China is not exotic and foreign enough. Going to China would be like going on a trip to Binondo. My lackluster response to my uncle’s suggestion led to him suggest London instead. I found out from him that we actually have relatives living in London. I didn’t know that. He added that we could stay at our relatives’ house in London while we’re there, so accommodation won’t be a problem.

So of course, my answer was a big YES. I’ve never been to London. In fact, London is in my bucket list of places I would love to visit. I’m a little bit of an Anglophile so I’m really excited about this. And since I am a big fan of Downton Abbey, the first thing that came to my mind when my uncle suggested London was to visit Highclere Castle.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle, a.k.a Downton Abbey
(Photo courtesy of skewenhistoricalsociety.org.uk)

But for now it’s still a plan. We haven’t picked a date yet because we’re still going over our schedules and looking at other priorities. But here’s hoping that this London trip will push through.

Home for the Holidays

November 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Lifestyle, Travel | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

view of Mt. Mayon from the car

view of Mayon volcano from the car

So my recent trip to my hometown in Bicol just ended. It was a flurry of activities the whole time I was there. The road trip with my sister and cousin was nice and comfortable despite the fact that we had to travel at 2:00 AM for the long journey. I hadn’t any sleep the night before the trip because I’m usually a night owl. I was wide awake for most of the journey and enjoyed the stillness of the early morning, breezing through the empty streets of Manila and passing by mountains and rice fields. My cousin was the one driving so my sister and I were able to relax throughout the trip. But I was nursing a headache by the time we got to Camarines Sur at around 9:00 AM due to the lack of sleep. By noon, we finally arrived home in Albay. We were greeted by the pleasant sight of our newly renovated ancestral home, which was divided into several units to accommodate six families.

Weena's road trip to Bicol

This is me during the road trip

The succeeding days were spent shopping with my mom, sister and aunt for things needed at the house, bingeing on food I hadn’t eaten in a long while (including Bicolano dishes), and preparing the unit of the house where my uncle was due to settle in. I was also able to meet with my old college buddies, although two of them couldn’t join us due to conflict of schedule. But I had such a great time with my college buddies and I spent Halloween with them reminiscing our good times together back when we were at the university.

Weena, Cielo & Ails

My college buddies and I at Embarcadero de Legazpi

My uncle and aunt arrived from Manila just in time for All Saints’ Day. So we had a small family reunion there at the house. It’s a tradition in our family to make food offerings to our dead relatives during All Saints’ Day, and I was able to witness it again after a long time.

My sister and I also helped our uncle settle into his new home when he arrived. It was the first time he saw the renovated house after he suffered a stroke and he was so pleased on how well the renovation turned out. We filled his unit with stuff he needed and my younger brother who looks after him also helped organized his things. There are still a few things in my uncle’s unit that need fixing, but all in all he was already quite settled there when my sister and I left for our trip back to Manila.

Weena with Mt. Mayon viewMe at the bay side of Embarcadero de Legazpi

I felt a little sad when my sister and I finally left the province to head back to Manila. I will miss it for sure. What I love the most about my hometown is its rustic and pastoral setting including its laidback atmosphere that Manila obviously lack. I can see myself retiring there eventually.

Our house in AlbayOur house

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