Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You need a chauffeur in Dubai

Especially during the summer months!

I arrived in Dubai in the middle of the night and the weather was a very warm 36C -- Yes, this is the temperature at midnight. I was already worried what the temperature will be like during the day. Obviously in the soaring 40's!

The record I think that I experienced was 45C, and I can tell you, Dubai in the summer months is like hell. It is a sweltering infierno and insanely humid. Water in the form of fog hangs in the air. It is futile to capture a clear sykline of Dubai because of this. Moreover, it is impossible to stand or walk outside for 5 minutes. Not even for 2 minutes! Walking under a covered walkway will make you sweat buckets. You need a chauffeur to bring you around otherwise you will melt!

Above picture is my chauffeur from my hotel. He's got a brand new Lexus, some parts of the car are still covered in plastic even. I have also used the normal taxi service from the streets but I have used him (the hotel chauffeur) twice.

If you do not have a car or cannot drive, you need to be driven around in Dubai. There is the metro available as well but I am not familiar with it and its impossibly hot outside to be walking to and fro the metro. Like I said, I almost melted! lol

Here are a few more pictures during my take off:

I flew with Emirates on an A380 (spacious and high tech)... and the picture above is the entrance to the first class cabins. Unfortunately I am flying coach which is not bad either because the seats were spacious enough. There are advantages when you are small hehe. Now I promised the Dutchman that I will take pictures of the A380, and this is so far the best that I can get. Much to the chagrin of many passengers including me, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport did not open the blinds at the gate area. There was no way we could take a good picture of the plane, but fortunately I managed to catch this shot before boarding in the tube's from its small window.

Flight Amsterdam to Dubai is approximately 6 hours 45 +- minutes.

The picture below is just before 1 o'clock in the morning when I arrived in Dubai enroute to my hotel. As you can see, Dubai is very much alive, but the question remains: Where are all these people going to after midnight? A Ramadan thing?

Interestingly at the Dubai Airport they have 'Pink Taxis' with a female driver specially available for the ladies. I do not mind riding a taxi with a male driver, but at the airport they automatically gave me a pink taxi with a lady driver. The taxis are coloured pink obviously and the lady drivers are dressed as well in pink. Cute, although pink is not a favourite colour of mine.

Different country, different religion, different rules. Fine with me.

On other news, I am in Singapore right now and my sleeping pattern is a total wreck =(

Travel Period: July 2013
Destination: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Off to these countries!

Bags have been packed and all ready to go!

As a tradition in this blog, I always post the picture of the flag of the country that I am going to visit, and in this case, flags of the countries. So here they are ladies and gents:

United Arab Emirates (Dubai night and a whole day layover)

Singapore (2 trips)

Philippines (Cebu)

Hong Kong SAR

Macau SAR

Malaysia (Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands)

I mentioned this trip earlier. Read here: Smorgasbord of upcoming trips to the Middle and Far East

Naturally I will continue to blog if there is internet, so do follow me. See you at the other side of the world! Tot zo!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Restaurant Day in Helsinki (May 2013)

The concept of ‘Restaurant Day’:

‘It is a worldwide food carnival when anyone can set up a restaurant, a café or a bar for a day. It can happen anywhere: at your home, at the office, on a street corner, in your garden or inner courtyard, at a park, or on the beach – only your imagination is the limit.’       

–  Excerpt from Restaurant Day website.

Students from this French Chef also joined in the worldwide food event.

So far there are 5,300+ pop-up one-day restaurants in over 45 countries and counting! The event is held 4 times a year. The next Restaurant Day is August 18, that is 3 weeks from now! Hurry and check the Restaurant Day link above for the dates and find out if your city is joining. Maybe you can pop-up a restaurant of your own as well? The perfect opportunity to release those creative and entrepreneurial skills of wannabe foodies who love to cook! Well, I am a wannabe foodie as well but who loves to eat =)

Unfortunately the countries I am travelling to in Asia this August have not yet joined in this tasty initiative. In fact Asia is not very active, save for a few countries, i.e. Japan and Thailand. I don’t really mind because Asia is one big street food lane anyway. And I have other noteworthy feasts to look forward to as well such as Ramadan’s Iftar and the Hungry Ghost Festival. *excited*

Nevertheless, I was lucky that it was Restaurant Day when I visited Helsinki! Before this event, I have not heard of Restaurant Day (saw Amsterdam and Utrecht as listed cities, so that is cool).

Most of the participating one-day pop-up restaurants were gathered at the Esplanadi (the park near the harbour and market square). Check out my Restaurant Day pictures in Helsinki below.

Brilliant, a caravan ice cream cafe.

This was a very international gathering of restaurants. First up is South American cuisine: Peruvian Ceviche, Mexican Chili Tacos and Argentinian Alfajores

Pretty paper design shopping bags. Who buys them these days? 

Then we have many flavours from Turkey (Baklava) and the Middle East. There were also a few restaurants offering African food such as Samosa. This stand is selling traditional Finnish doughnuts called, Possumunkki as well.

South East Asia represented!

I couldn't resist, I have to try those crunchy Vietnamese lumpias. They remind me of Ngo Hiong sold in the streets of Cebu when I was young. You dip them in vinegar. Helsinki also has a few surviving old trams and they stop between Esplanadi and the Market Square.

With an event like this, there is surely some other show going on as well.

Oh another South American country represented. Brazilian Churrasco =)

Funnily, my Helsinki experiences revolved mostly around food. Not necessarily eating but ogling and taking hundreds of pictures of food around me for sure. At the end of my Tallinn-Helsinki-Porvoo holiday I swore to myself not to eat for a week. That is of course, as we all know, a big lie.

Travel Period: May 2013
Destination: Helsinki, Finland

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

I want to adopt a cat

Recently I went out with Blondine for lunch at a really nice chic place in Amsterdam but will post more about this another time soon. So I picked her up in Amstelveen and when we went back to the car, we had a little surprise. Look who's waiting for us!

Awww, isn't she just soooo cute? I want to squeeze and pinch her.

This very relaxed cat was lying there like there is going to be no tomorrow. Seriously, the cat looked like she was having the best time in her life, lying on her back leisurely, no cares in this world, wriggling and rubbing her back. Even with our presence she was not moving away, she was just not budging! And she continues to wriggle and rub her back against the car, her head upside down and her eyes looking straight at me. If those teardrop green eyes could talk, she must have said, 'I haven't had lunch yet... can I come with you ladies please?'

Sorry Miss Cat but we cannot bring you with us to our lunch, so we need to get you down! Miss Cat protested but she eventually got down, albeit grudgingly.

I will let you in a secret wish. I really, really, really want to have a cat. Unfortunately, we don't know where to leave the cat when we are travelling. Dutchman argues that leaving the cat somewhere else, like an animal hospice is not healthy. He said cats are territorial and thus prefer to stay where they are.

Hmm, we could actually ask our neighbours, but Dutchman and I are not the type of people to inconvenience others. It's not us to ask favours from other people.

Helaas, I will just keep on dreaming until I find a solution.

Amsteleveen, The Netherlands
July 2013

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Staff wanted in Singapore

In preparation for my Asian trip, I revisited my old pictures. I saw this and had a good laugh!

This one was taken in Singapore 6 years ago. A restaurant looking for staff and brutally advertising the qualities they do not want.

Just a few more nights before my Dubai layover and Asian trip...

Travel Period: July 2007
Destination: Singapore

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Watched ‘La Bayadère’ Ballet Show at the Estonian National Theatre

On my wish list in my visit to Tallinn was to watch a ballet show. Eastern Europe is the gateway to the ballet world and I wanted to have a taste of this in Estonia. I was lucky enough because when I was there the ‘Bajadeer’ (also spelled as Bayadère) was premiered at the Estonian National Opera House! I could not have been more happier!

So here I am in the lift of Meriton Old Town Garden Hotel ready to go to the show. I was lazy to wear something else, so I improvised and put on my black heels (and not the stilettos because the cobbled streets in Tallin are a pain to walk on) and my dependable black shawl. Done! Would have loved to do something with my hair but did not have the time.

This is the Estonian National Opera Theater and this picture was taken from this trendy café called Kohvik Komeet located in the shopping mall across it. A very nice place to spend a break especially with this view.

The lobby of the theatre taken during the afternoon I bought the ticket. I bought the ticket a day before the show directly from the ticket counter of the theatre.

The Bajadeer ballet performance show is a 2-hour show including the break.

I also have a very nice seat, quite lucky I should say, near the middle on the lower balcony. This is the interior of the theatre. Very nice.

And look at that ceiling!

I found a quick snippet in YouTube of the Bajadeer ballet show, see below:

And here is the show… these pictures were taken from the website of Estonia’s National Opera. It is not allowed to take pictures and to film during the ballet performance so obviously not to embarrass myself, I slipped my camera back into my little bag.

Here is a little summary of the Bajadeer Ballet Show:

Ballet by Ludwig Minkus
World premiere on January 23, 1877 at Mariinsky Theatre
Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on May 16, 2013

“La Bayadère” is a story of eternal love, vengeance, and justice. The ballet recounts the story of the impossible love between a temple dancer (bayadère) Nikiya and the noble warrior Solor. In a moment of forgetfulness, Solor becomes engaged to the Rajah’s daughter Gamzatti and in order to assure the young man’s love for Gamzatti, the Rajah decides to kill Nikiya...

To read more, go here: La Bajadere at the Estonian Opera

I found the show very delightful. I especially loved the scene with the ‘wild guys’. So much energy and power. Exhilarating.

During the break I went downstairs to the café at the basement for some martini. It’s a 15 minute break (umm, I think longer, not sure anymore) and you can elect to order food in advance. If you do this, you will have to go to this VIP room to enjoy your food, which I didn’t do because I didn’t want to eat in the theatre. Nevertheless, not ordering food during the show was a good decision.

My martini below at the cafe in the basement and the hallway outside the lower balcony level of the Opera House.

The Opera house after the show and the Bajadeer official poster.

Now back in the Netherlands, I’m looking forward to seeing something of this calibre or better in Amsterdam!

Travel Period: May 2013
Destination: Tallinn, Estonia

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