Tags: Al Fahidi in Dubai, Arabic food, art galleries in Dubai, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Deira, Dubai Creek, Dubai Mall, Dubai souks, Jumeirah Open Beach, Majlis Gallery, skyscrapers in Dubai, XVA Art Hotel & Cafe
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
Tags: All Saints' Day, Bicol, road trip
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Bicol, road trip
Later this month I will be traveling to my hometown in Bicol with my sister. We’ve been planning about this for a long time and I’m excited that our trip is getting nearer. This time though we’ll be on a road trip instead of taking the bus. My sister and I will be traveling via our uncle’s car. It will be about nine to ten hours drive and I’m fine with it. I like road trips because it gives me the opportunity to see the sights along the way, aside from the fact that you can have a stop over any time you want.
You see the purpose of our going home to the province is not only because we’re visiting our family there but also because we’ll be helping our uncle settle into his house. Ever since my uncle suffered a stroke almost two years ago, he’s been wanting to go home and live in retirement there. He has been working in Manila all his life and now that he’s retired, he will be occupying his newly renovated house in Bicol. Most of his stuff here in Manila – furniture, appliances, clothes – have been shipped there two months ago. My sister and I will be helping him unpack and shop for new things he need. His house here in Manila is already up for sale.
I am definitely looking forward to coming home. This time my sister and I will be staying a little longer so that means I will have more time to spend with my family there. This will also give me the opportunity to meet my old college buddies there whom I haven’t seen in a long time. I still have contact with my friends there but mostly we only communicate through text messages and occasional hellos via Facebook. Hopefully I can gather all my friends while I am there and catch up with what’s going on in their lives.