Five Things to Consider When Going On a Holiday

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Wouldn't you want to just lose yourself in THIS magnificence?

Wouldn’t you want to just lose yourself in THIS magnificence?

Going away on a holiday is a necessity for most of us who are deeply entrenched in the brutal corporate and (even) domestic jungles, primarily to relax and recharge our batteries, to get lost in the moment and rediscover our fun self (remember that time when you used to be fun?), meet new romantic partners or recapture excitement with current beau, or perhaps to disengage ourselves away from the maddening demands of our daily lives. Also, going on a holiday takes us to that state of natural mindfulness, where we pay complete attention to our life experiences and evaluate them with a fresh pair of eyes as we try to look to the future.

But now that we are bombarded by travel options, it becomes increasingly important to make wise travel decisions without having to kill the thrill of spontaneity and intoxicating randomness, in order for us to fully maximize the perks of our trip. Consider these tips when planning your next travel adventure:

  1. Traveling on a budget is NOT (always) synonymous to bad travel experience, and it shouldn’t be. What it does is simply help you manage your resources efficiently and encourage you to experience some aspects of traveling without having to go expensive all the time.
  2. Be an explorer! Now is your chance to absorb all the colors, sights, sounds, tastes and emotions your body can contain, so don’t waste it by being cooped-up in your hotel room the whole day. If in a safe neighborhood, you can take a walk, rent a bike, or run at your own pace. This is also a good way for you to keep fit while on vacation. Go out there and live life like you mean it!
  3. Direct your own travel documentary. Capture moments and places as much and as often as you can. These will give you enough materials to create your own travel videos which you can revisit each time you feel the need to escape but just can’t.
  4. Make one or two friends for each day of your trip and by that I mean, make it your mission to know more than just their name and what sort of work they do. Have engaging conversations on books, movies, sports and of course, your travel adventures.
  5. Be a student – learn. Discover more about the place, its history and culture, and the people, by watching, observing, listening, and asking questions. Make each travel an enriching experience for you and you will be surprised by the great number of things you will soon learn about yourself.

REVIEW: Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga (SSMY)

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But first, something we all need to know from the get-go: Yoga is NOT a religion.

What it does is to promote certain steps for guidance in leading a meaningful life here on earth. Stuff like moral discipline, self-discipline and meditation are taught and practised in traditional yoga, but there are no religious obligations (like attending services) attached to it. Some even do it purely out of fitness pursuit and that’s okay, nobody’s hating on anybody, because that is simply un-yoga-like.

Like me, for example. I have been practicing yoga on and off for about a year or so and to be honest, I do it mostly for the asanas. I have not fully embraced the yoga way of life because my self-discipline is still far from the level that it’s supposed to be at, for me to be able to truly live the yogi life. But I know one day it will come.

I like yoga because each practice gives me a more positive outlook on life and if you know me, you would know that I sometimes have the predilection to be too pessimistic about certain situations, people included. It also allows me to be stronger and more flexible, not just physically but also mentally. In fact, I like yoga so much that I am planning on taking a yoga teaching course sometime next year. Hopefully, after I pop one out.:)

Fast forward to Saturday night, when Hubs and I attended the opening of Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga located at Tras Street in Singapore. At the event, invited guests were treated to a one-hour session of group meditation, followed by another hour of Vinyasa. Both sessions were led by SSMY Founder Japadas Bismark, whose entire life is a living testimony to the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

The Singapore School of Meditation & Yoga is dedicated to improving the well-being of every individuals through its teaching of Bhakti yoga. Like most people who are not as knowledgeable about yoga and its origins and teachings, I turned to Google and this is what I found: (http://www.zentofitness.com/yoga-eastern-western-philosophy/)
Yoga is actually represented as four “ways.” The way of harmony, or Raja Yoga (of which hatha is one), is the physical component. The way of unity is known as Jnana Yoga (the intellectual approach to yoga). Bhakti Yoga is the way of devotion (the religious orientation). Karma Yoga is the journey of works (the path of cause and effect). They each fit different yoga practitioner’s temperaments and form much of the comprehensiveness of yoga.
According to Japadas, SSMY’s purpose is to reinstitute the real meaning and purpose of yoga and mantra meditation by imparting to the community the true ancient knowledge and practices of yoga and mantra meditation that have been handed down through generations of bonafide gurus. So for people who are looking to deepen their appreciation and practice of yoga, beyond the asanas, SSMY is where you will find solace after a gruelling day at work or at home.
SSMY, from an aesthetic point of view, has been designed to really showcase the serenity and peace of the senses that one hopes to achieve during practice. It may be small in space but it does pack a lot of positive energy, clearly evident in the pristine white walls, the cushions on the floor of the small receiving area before it opens to the asana room with a floor-to-ceiling mirror on one side and big beautiful windows typical of traditional shophouses, and the custom-made yoga mats and yoga blocks for the students’ use. The asana area can accommodate up to 12 people.
The SSMY asana room

The SSMY asana room

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Meanwhile, the meditation room located upstairs was designed differently from the asana area. Up here, the mood is more soothing and tranquil with less noise piercing through the walls and windows. The meditation room can accommodate a maximum of 15 people, all seating comfortably on plush cushions placed on the carpeted floor.
The SSMY meditation room

The SSMY meditation room

The studio also comes equipped with lockers and changing rooms and a nice clean toilet for everyone’s convenience.
The Singapore School of Meditation is offering free meditation classes on Mondays at 7pm beginning on the 17th of November. Meanwhile, the asana classes are available every morning for now but will accommodate evening classes soon enough. Founder Japadas’ vision is for SSMY to launch yoga retreats outside of Singapore beginning 2015. For the full schedule and other queries, you may visit SSMY’s Facebook fanpage.

TRAVEL: Amazing AUSTRALIA

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Australia consistently ranks high on the list of countries offering the quality of life many countries can only dream about. And why not? With its massive land area (sixth in the world), amazing beaches and reefs, forests, fantastic four-season weather, diverse wildlife, multicultural melting pot cities populated with beautiful people, there’s very little that this country can possibly want.

So when we visited Australia for the first time last July, we came with expectations set so high and came back with the satisfaction that they were all met, surpassed even. I love Australia – SO MUCH that I sometimes still dream about our trip and how we could have stayed a while longer and visited more places. I’m pretty certain there will be more time for that in the near offing, and most likely with the little tyke in tow. However, for now, here’s a list of our Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sydney travel highlights:

  1. Took the Brisbane River Cruise – From our hotel in downtown Brissy, we walked towards Brisbane River and hopped on one of the river cruise boats. It’s a fun way of discovering the history of the river and admiring some of Brisbane’s most iconic sights (Kangaroo Point Cliffs, City Centre, Brisbane Wheel, etc) for only AUD 25 per person.

    The Brisbane Eye, one of Brisbane's iconic landmarks

    The Brisbane Eye, one of Brisbane’s iconic landmarks

  2. Visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – If I can only have one Aussie travel highlight – but we all know that’s impossible because, hey, it’s Australia! – this would be it. Only one of the very few places now where you can still cuddle a koala (for a fee, of course), Lone Pine Koala Sactuary is located about 13kms from Brisbane CDB. The zoo is quite company so it’s very easy to move around and they don’t only have koalas here but also other animals such as kangaroos, Tasmanian devil, few bird species, fish, and reptiles. 

    Cuddled a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane

    Cuddled a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane

  3. Breakfast at Coolangatta Beach – Located at the Gold Coast side of Australia, Coolangatta is a beautiful stretch of white sand beach and gorgeous blue water that retains its precious charm even during winter. We had a typical Aussie breakfast of bacon, eggs, bread and coffee by the beach, which was made more fun by the frequent sighting of hot surfers about to hit the waves. After breakfast, we took a nice, long walk along the beach and took some very nice photos as well.

    Coolangatta Beach, pretty even during winter

    Coolangatta Beach, pretty even during winter

  4. Climbed the Gold Coast Skypoint and marvelled at the precious 360-degree view of Gold Coast below. You can’t make up a sight like this. 

    Gorgeous 360-degree view of Gold Coast from the Skypoint in Broadbeach

    Gorgeous 360-degree view of Gold Coast from the Skypoint in Broadbeach

  5. Explored Surfers Paradise – Another one of Australia’s amazing beaches and a lot more crowded than Coolangatta. It was a sunny winter day so there were plenty of people milling around. Took a stroll down Soul Boardwalk and dined at Vapiano, a great Italian restaurant.  Watch out for the hot cops patrolling the area and snap photos with them if you can.

    Welcome to Surfer's Paradise!

    Welcome to Surfer’s Paradise!

  6. Ran the Gold Coast Airport (Half) Marathon…on a cold winter day and nearly paid for it with dear life. First a disclaimer: I am a tropical baby through and through, and by that I mean I cannot stand cold weather temperature. I was pretty sure I would collapse during the run but I managed to pull myself together and complete the half-marathon, though off-mark by several minutes.

    I survived, yey!

    I survived, yey!

  7. Took a stroll up and down Darling Harbour – Officially one of my favourite places in Sydney, Darling Harbour is lined with restaurants and cafés, including the famous Lindt Café. It’s gorgeous at daytime with all the boats, ferries and water taxis docked along the wharf and even prettier at night with the cacophony of lights and sounds emanating from the fancy establishments.

    Darling Harbour, Sydney

    Darling Harbour, Sydney

  8. Got lost in Manly and Bondi Beach – Thanks to lovely friends who took me around Sydney while Hubby was working, I was able to visit the iconic Bondi and Manly beaches. And because it was winter, we have enough space to walk around and get some suntan mesh going. Love, love, love Bondi and I wish to be back there on summertime. Special mention to Inez, Johanna, Zoe and Liza – thank you so much for the lovely company during my short stay in Sydney. Hope to see you all again soon!

    Beautiful Bondi Beach

    Beautiful Bondi Beach

  9. Took a photo in front of the famous Harry’s Pies – I’ve been told that Hollywood stars and Australian celebrities frequent this little roadside café on wheels, which is now considered an institution in Sydney. It’s a pity that we were still full from all the fish and chips that we’ve eaten the whole day so I didn’t get to try the famous pies. Next time!

    Hello from Harry's Pies!

    Hello from Harry’s Pies!

  10. Went up the Sydney Eye Tower -  Just before we took our flight back to Singapore, we crammed a visit to the tower and Madame Tussaud’s in about 4 hours. The Sydney Eye Tower offers an unobstructed view of Sydney and its iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

    Spectacular view of Sydney from the Sydney Eye Tower

    Spectacular view of Sydney from the Sydney Eye Tower

  11. Took a photo of the Sydney Opera House – Because I’m a tourist and this is what tourists do!

    THE Sydney Opera House

    THE Sydney Opera House

  12. Visited Madame Tussaud’s – Another great first-time experience for me. If you’ve ever been to one, then you would know that they make them almost real-looking, it’s beyond amazing!

    You have reached the White House...

    You have reached the White House…

What are your favourite things about Australia?

TRAVEL: Nine Things To Do In ABU DHABI

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Everything I thought I knew about Abu Dhabi turned out to be completely wrong. Well, not entirely everything. Abu Dhabi is scorching hot (weather/temperature-wise) and extremely wealthy (money-wise). Apart from those two things, I didn’t really know any better until I set foot in the city itself and stayed for all of three days with our very gracious hosts, Mamoun and Chemsih.

But let’s back up a little. I was in the UAE sometime in September for a company event in Dubai, followed by a junket trip to this luxurious resort spa called Anantara Desert Islands Resort at Sir Bani Yas island. It being my first trip to the UAE (there were two travels to certain parts of Africa years ago that had me staying at the Dubai Airport for a few hours’ worth of layover, that was it, which hardly qualifies as visit) and knowing for certain that a second visit is probably not going to happen so soon, we planned for Hubby to travel to Abu Dhabi so we can explore the city together, even for just a few days.

Abu Dhabi is ahhh-may-zing! Forget that it’s often referred to as the shy and conservative, plain Jane sister of the more flamboyant Dubai, Abu Dhabi is finally coming to its own and the city is beginning to show more of its innate beauty – and is making no apologies for it! Though we only had two full days, we count ourselves lucky to have been in the great company of our hosts who really took time out of their own schedule to show us around. Merci beaucoup les amis!

And what makes Abu Dhabi special? Here are nine wildly fantastic experiences I will not soon forget:

  1. Anantara Desert Islands Resort – Anantara Resort and Spa at Sir Bani Yas Island is one of those places that, once experienced, will tease and taunt you for the rest of your life. Knowing that this luxurious resort sits on top of an arid desert makes it even more impressive. Everything about this place is luxurious, beautiful and elegant. I was lucky to have been assigned a room overlooking the gorgeous  infinity pool and the incredible turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf. Anantara offers a ton of activities for their guests to choose from and my favourite was the early morning wildlife safari ride where you get to see animals roaming freely on this section of the island. Arabian oryxes, giraffes, cheetahs, different bird species, and horses are only some of the animals we’ve seen during our two-hour safari drive.

    Fantastic view of the Arabian Gulf at the luxurious Anantara Desert Island Resort

    Fantastic view of the Arabian Gulf at the luxurious Anantara Desert Island Resort

  2. Make a pitstop at Ferrari World – A dream destination for petrolheads and especially, the rabid fans of the prancing horse, Ferrari World is the biggest indoor theme park in the world. Visitors can take their pick from rides, restaurants, shops, and some sort of Ferrari museum which this large establishment houses. Formula Rossa, said to be the world’s fastest roller coaster, is their most popular ride, which sadly, I did not get to experience because I just hate, hate, HATE roller coasters. And I’m pretty sure they hate me right back.

    Welcome to the world's biggest indoor theme park!

    Welcome to the world’s biggest indoor theme park!

  3. Go sky-high at Ray’s Bar – Whether or not you consider yourself a party animal, a visit to Ray’s Bar should be on your list when visiting Abu Dhabi. Located at the 62nd floor of the towering Etihad Tower, Ray’s Bar is so stylish and chic that it’s so easy to see why all the beautiful and loaded people love to converge here. With its prime location, Ray’s Bar gives you the best view in Abu Dhabi.  Looking down on The Corniche and the Emirates Palace was an exceedingly breathtaking experience for me. I was mesmerised by the pretty lights pulsating from the establishments below, while having a sip of Cabernet.
  4. Get seriously carnivorous at Chamas – Chamas is not for the fainthearted. For someone like me who only eats fish, chicken, and occasionally pork, the whole experience was both daunting and provocative at the same time. But  for those with an insatiable appetite for meat of all types, cuts, and manner of cooking, Chamas will definitely hold a massive appeal. After our big carnivorous meal, accompanied by live salsa band, we headed across to the Yacht Club for our cocktail fix.
  5. Sun-worshipping at Saadiyat Public Beach – Now ranking high on my list of favourite beaches in the world, Saadiyat captivated me with its beautiful white sand and gorgeous blue water that is almost similar in hue and temperature with Maldives. Despite being a public beach, Saadiyat is kept very clean and you only pay a small fee, if you want to use the umbrella and beach chair. Don’t forget to bring and coat yourself with the strongest sunblock in your arsenal as the sun can get pretty nasty here – and pretty much anywhere in the region.
    Cocktails for lunch at Park Hyatt  Saadiyat. Thank you Mamoun and Chemsih for the wonderful Abu Dhabi experience!

    Cocktails for lunch at Park Hyatt Saadiyat. Thank you Mamoun and Chemsih for the wonderful Abu Dhabi experience!

    Just gorgeous.

    Just gorgeous.

  6. High Tea at Shakespeare and Co. – Located at The Collection, right across the luxurious St. Regis Hotel in Saadiyat, Shakespeare & Co. is a great place to hangout at, especially if you are looking to cool-off a bit, after a day spent suntanning at the nearby beach. The restaurant itself has been designed beautifully with very colourful interior and exterior decor; food is great and they come in bigger-than-average portion.

    Happy place in Saadiyat.

    Happy place in Saadiyat.

    7.  Take a stroll at The Corniche – If it weren’t extremely hot outside, I would’ve loved to walk the whole stretch of The                  Corniche and back. I did, however, manage to walk close to 2kms – just long enough to see a nice section of the beach              and some cafés dotting a portion of the shoreline. I saw some runners and cyclists plying the Corniche in the late                        afternoon on our way back from the Saadiyat Beach, and I‘ve been told that they have some yoga sessions on certain                days, so there’s definitely something for every fit Tom, Dick and Harriett.

8.  Visit Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque — The first thing that struck me as we were walking along the elegant hallways of the            Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque was the sheer serenity of the place. There is so much beauty and peace inside and outside              of the mosque that one can’t help but fall in love with it, regardless of religion. While everything is pristine white outside,            the interior of the mosque shows a stark contrast with the cacophony of bright and glittering colours of the gigantic                    chandeliers incorporating millions of Swarovski crystals. The columns inside the main prayer hall with mother or pearl                inlays also look very beautiful. Truly, it’s not called the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque for nothing.

C'est magnifique!

C’est magnifique!

      9.  Shisha at the Souk – Any trip to the Middle East is incomplete without the shisha experience and we had our fix a few              times in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well. On our last night in Abu Dhabi, our hosts took us to the shisha bar on the rooftop            of the downtown souk. Don’t expect much from the view because there isn’t any, save for the buildings surrounding the            area, but it’s still a worthwhile experience especially when shared with good people.

What are your best memories of Abu Dhabi?

Vicky’s Guide To Moving On

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Nine years, three months and I have finally moved on. And the journey is, surprisingly, not at all painful. It’s as easy and smooth as you would have wished all your breakups in the past had been. But perhaps I should start by explaining what it is, or was, that I have moved on from.

So here it is.

Three weeks ago, I left my job. Or more to the point, (my) life for almost a decade. You know how sometimes you develop an intense affection for something or someone (the latter being more relatable, I guess) that you think the romance is never going to wane, but then you wake up and bam! It’s. just. not. there. anymore. However, in my case, it was more gradual rather than abrupt. No drama, no tears, no gut-wrenching pain or guilt. Except when I finally had that chat with my former Boss, whom I have always respected and I reckon, always will, and not only because of our working relationship but because he’s just a genuinely awesome person, that I got a wee bit emotional. A really good man, that one. And then of course, I have a few (so few) colleagues whom I really liked talking to and collaborating with. Let’s not forget the fun memories of the good old days when people were a lot closer, less calculating, more genuine, more fun. When you’ve had your fair share of breakups, you know that often, even when you know the relationship is heading south, you try to delay the inevitable by allowing yourself to be swayed by memories which are really no more than just dying embers. And these things (do) die, eventually. But I remain loyal to people, good memories and experience spanning nine years and the learnings that came with it. Otherwise, if I forget all of that, those years would have been all for naught. And they weren’t. I just…needed a good change.

Which brings us to here and now. Since I tendered, I found myself planning and doing all sorts of really fun stuff which admittedly made the transition so much easier, like I said. So here it is, Vicky’s guide to moving on:

1. Buy a MacBook Air. I mean, I wish Apple had just given me one for no reason but in my case, Apple came in the form of my doting husband. Merci beaucoup mon mari for my early Christmas gift! With my new job, I intend to pick up blogging again so Macquette and I are certainly going to have a LOT of crazy fun adventures together!

MacBookAir

2. Go to a baking class with newfound friends. Making friends is always encouraged but I prefer my connections to be more than just the perfunctory follows, likes and comments on social media. I want to be in the company of beautiful people (hi Mae!) who are just as passionate about learning new stuff as I am. Plus, baking is totes fun yo! And c’est bon, says Hubby.

BakingClass

3. Indulge your inner fat kid. Met up with a dear friend (hi Madie!) and discovered Market Grill and its famous Mangalica Pork Chop and swooped down on Dean and Deluca’s top-rated rainbow cake for dessert. Before the night was over, we made semi-concrete plans to hit foodie haunts we’ve never been to before in Singapore and just let ourselves go. Anyway, there’s always running and yoga to turn to when things get a little bit out of hand.

RainbowCakeDeanandDeluca

4. Go to a Mariah Carey concert. Okay, this one was not random. I bought the tickets months before but it was just fortuitous that the concert happened during my period of transition. Mariah can still sing and she performed beautifully last night! So haters and trolls, you can all give it a rest now. Give the lady a break. She’s been through a lot.

TheElusiveChanteuse2014

5. Go to a yoga and music festival on the beach! What can be better than these three things – beach, yoga and music -combined? Them three plus a lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry’s! Jest aside, I’m glad that I signed up for SoulScape SG where  I met a lot of likeminded yoga and fitness enthusiasts and got to do some fun things right on the beach! Never mind that the sight of their yoga-toned and taut bodies made me feel overweight.

SoulScapeSG

6. Repurpose old clothes. I started with a major spring cleaning session and, tadaaah, found clothes I have not worn in ages which I am now in the thick of repurposing so they don’t go to waste. While repurposing ex-lovers is a big no-no, I cannot say the same thing for, you know, things.

7. Reorganise stuff. Books, clothes, bags, shoes, kitchen items, digital photo albums, etc. Basically, anything messy that I can get my hands on, I will eventually reorganise.

8. Plan for winter holiday… (or any other holiday because now I have 20 plus paid vacation leaves a year to use whenever and however which way I want!) Planning is actually more of Hubby’s hard skill but I do get involved occasionally by scouring Instagram and Pinterest for places I want to visit and haranguing him nonstop to consider plugging it into the itinerary.

So there you go. Bottomline, we all have different ways of dealing with a major transition in life and mine just happened to have come together to form this beautiful pattern, for which I am truly grateful. And now that I have put the past behind me, it’s time to plan, nay, just BE awesome in life everyday.

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part IV)

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It was a bittersweet moment, leaving Thulusdhoo atoll and the unhurried pace we have grown accustomed to (at least for a few days) in favor of the more urbanized city capital, Malé, where we will be staying for one night before flying back to Singapore in the afternoon.

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Thulusdhoo jetty. ‘Til we meet again!

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City of Malé as seen from the ferry.

I started the day still feeling out of sorts, but when Chris and I started our city tour, I began to warm up, little by little. Also, he was kinda clever, first, by offering to take my picture on the public artificial beach; then, buying me that irresistible chocolate smoothie; and just as my angry countenance started to melt away bit by bit, he maneuvered me into a conversation about Malé and some of the touristy sites he had marked on the travel map. And just like that, I was très heureux wifey again! Whew.

A bit of trivia: Malé is 1.7 km long and 1.0 km wide (shorter even than UP loop, can you believe that?!) and is home to over 100,000 making it the world’s densest city. Recognizing the serious lack of space to accommodate the growing population, as well as the tourists and visitors that flock to the island, the government of Maldives has started work on a new reclaimed island called Hulhumalé, just between Male and Hulhule.

The artificial beach, as the locals call it, is actually a small enclave of turquoise sea water adjacent to the jetty. It’s where the city dwellers swim and it being a public beach, wearing of swimsuits is strictly prohibited. That day, we saw some small children happily playing in the water as the parents look on and it was such a lovely sight to behold!

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Blue on blue.

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The artificial beach. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Here’s the public beach again from another vantage point.

From the beach, we walked the narrow streets of Malé in search of other famous landmarks. The city streets are congested with people, the ubiquitous motorcycles, and a few cars. You have to be careful when walking these narrow alleys to avoid getting side-swiped by the speeding vehicles. At this time of national elections, the whole of Malé is decked out with political banners, posters, and buntings. Pink symbolizes the Ruling Party and the Yellow color represents the Opposition. It’s interesting to note that the campaign posters are all of the same size and it has a uniform template – usually just a photo of the candidate, very few words, and the party affiliation. So unlike the complete state of disarray and pandemonium that Philippines is thrown into during national elections.

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Official color of the Ruling Party.

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Official color of the Opposition Party.

First, we went to Jumhooree Maidhaan or the Independence Square. It’s just a tiny park close to the market and it is marked by the giant Maldivian flag mounted on a towering flagpole. This is where political campaigns and demonstrations are held and it’s adjacent to the Police Headquarters and the Shaheed Hussain Administration Building.

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The Independence Square.

Close to the Independence Square is perhaps Malé’s most famous landmark, the Islamic Centre which has the largest mosque in the Maldives, with its eye-catching giant golden dome. The mosque is open to visitors outside of prayer hours of course but photography is not allowed inside. Plus, you have to be wearing proper clothes and absolutely no wearing of shoes and slippers inside.

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The famous Islamic Center.

The Fish Market is also an interesting place to visit. Here, you will see the day’s catch being sold or dried out in the sun. There’s a small lighthouse at the end of a narrow walk-path where you can have an unobstructed view of the Independence Square right across. It was rather off-putting seeing men relieving their bladder right on the sea next to the market. It reminded me so much of my home country where men can be quite imprudent (with) where they shoot their pee. LOL. But never mind that, the view, like I said is quite pleasant from this side of the island.

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View from the lighthouse. Behind Chris, you can see the Maldivian flag on the left and the golden dome of the Islamic Centre on the right.

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Catch of the day.

From the fish market, we went back to traversing the narrow alleys to look for the venerated tomb of the man said to have been responsible for bringing Islam to the Maldives, a Sunni Muslim visitor from Morocco named Abu al Barakat. According to the legend, young virgin girls in Malé were chosen from the community and left alone in a temple as a sacrifice to Rannamaari, a sea jinni. One night Barakat took the place of a prospective sacrificial virgin and drove the demon away by reading from the Islamic holy book, the Quran. The Maldivian king at the time was sold on Islam, and ordered that the whole country convert.

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The tomb of Abu Al Bakarat

Meanwhile, next to the mausoleum of Abu al Bakarat is the stately home of the President of Maldives. It’s gated, of course, but we didn’t see armed guards patrolling the area, however, there are CCTV cameras aplenty.

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Presidential House.

At 12:30, the three of us regrouped to have lunch at a local restaurant nearby. Chris and Eric ordered chicken and fish biryani and I got this ‘devil fish’ with roti. If the word ‘devil’ isn’t indication enough of just how spicy it was, the first few bites certainly set my tongue on fire. Eric, too, was unable to finish his biryani because it was on the spicy side as well. After lunch, we took the ferry to Hulhumalé, the reclaimed island close to the airport where we will be spending the night.

Thanks to Shaheem who made the arrangement for our last day in Hulhumalé, we found ourselves in this homey little beach house called COCO GILLI (contact numbers: +960 3350633 and +960 7 90633) which sits literally next to the beach! The hotel staff picked us up from the jetty (from Malé to Hulhumalé is about 20-30 minutes ferry ride) and took us straight to the beach house. Naturally, the three of us wasted no time in catching our last whiff of the Maldives sea. We dumped our luggage, changed into swimsuits, and ran to the beach all in under ten minutes! The island itself is fairly new, having been reclaimed only a few years, but the development is on fast track mode. Already the government has built several rows of housing blocks and are building more. The beachfront is also busy with a lot of beach house construction which, when completed, will certainly draw more tourists into Hulhumalé.

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There’s a lot of construction going on in the island so the beach here is not as well-kept as Thulusdhoo.

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I saw these children playing on the beach and I thought they were cute, so i asked if i can take their photo. Et voila!

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Playtime pour moi!

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…and ze Hubby!

Team Altaie.

Team Altaie.

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Christophe and Vicky. Maldives 2014.

And with that, we have officially concluded our first holiday in 2014 and indisputably one of the best trips ever! Maldives is such a beautiful country but don’t just take the travel junkies/bloggers/journalists’ words and photos for it. If you can, find a way to visit and no, you don’t (even) need to pawn off your home because there are now cheaper ways of enjoying the country and everything it has to offer. You just have to do your research well and make sure that you pack your adventurous spirit along with your sunscreen, after-sun cream (for both, I highly recommend La Roche Posay. It is the best product to protect your skin from the harsh elements of the sun and the beach. Of late, the combination of sun and the beach easily gives me painful rash attack but using La Roche Posay sun cream and after-sun cream prevents me from getting a massive rash breakout), and other swimming essentials. And in the event that you get all psychotic like me, hahaha, try to find your way back because Maldives is hardly any place for you to mope or get all worked up. I loved this trip for a lot of very obvious reasons but especially for the wonderful company. So to Emperor Eric and my hotsie-patootsie hubby Christophe whom I absolutely adore beyond words, here’s to us and the many more travel adventures we will hopefully have together! Ika nga ni Buzz Lightyear, ‘To inFIJI and beyond!’ Uuuuyyy, nagbabadya!  :)

xoxox

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part III)

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It’s Day Three and though it seemed at that point it would be tough to top our ClubMed Kani adventure, Chris and I woke up much earlier than the previous day determined to catch the sun rise majestically over Thulusdhoo. I was up by 4am, promptly downdogging on the floor while waiting for Hubs to wake up and join me for a walk down the beach.

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In praise of the sun(rise).

At 5:30am, we found the perfect spot to watch the sunrise just in front of Cokes Surf Villas. Perched on a fallen trunk of a mid-sized tree like eager petits singes, we watched with a great deal of fascination the old women of Thulusdhoo who were systematically sweeping dried leaves scattered on the beach – with very precise strokes of the broom. Not a word was exchanged among these women and they just kept sweeping the beach area to spotless perfection – even long after we were done with our walk. If you’ve never watched the sunrise on the beach, you are definitely missing out on one of the greatest moments in life! There’s just no substitute for it. Chris and I had a grand time stretching and doing breathing exercises while the sun was slowly peeking out of the dregs of the night clouds (is there such a thing?). Anyway, we both loved the sunrise experience so much that we made time for it again on our last morning in Maldives. This time, on the beach right next to our petit inn at Hulhumale (watch out for Part quatre). In Part One, I have shared some Thulusdhoo sunrise photos but here’s one more for good measure. :)

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Break of dawn.

We had snorkeling ($40 per person) and Chickens Island tour on our agenda for Day Three. Like the rest of the group, I was very excited to go snorkeling until I met a petit accident just after my first jump and the monster in me emerged. **tantadadaaaannn** I was trying to climb back up the boat when it lurched and I scraped about an inch off my skin – which again, would have been okay as I am used to getting injured anyway, YES, even when I’m asleep (scratched my face a few times while sleeping so I never grow my nails long enough for them to scoop my eyeballs out in some freaky sleeping accident, haha) – but the cut was right on my left shin, exposing a little bit of the bone there. I didn’t cry, no, but I was so furious I wanted to lash out at something or someone – and guess who was well within ‘lashing out’ reach? Uh-oh. According to Chris and Eric, the view underwater is so beautiful it’s as if scenes from ‘Finding Nemo’ have been replayed for their exclusive viewing pleasure. And I missed all that. C’est dommage.

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Here’s Hubby happily snorkeling while I was seething. LOL.

So anyway, my horrible mood ruled me until the following day when we arrived in Malé (I will only get appeased during our city tour when I’ve had my chocolate milkshake – Hubby’s peace offering, haha. He really gets me, my darling hubby!), so you can imagine how much of a downer I was for the remainder of Day Three. I did try to amuse myself by walking around Chickens Island (our next stop after Chris and Eric have had enough of snorkeling), taking photos, walking from one end of the tiny island to the other end looking at baby sharks and manta rays swimming close to the shore, and yet, I was far from pleased. Not even the idea of us having dinner at Tim’s washboard abs, errr, surf joint later that evening could jolt me out of my childish tantrum. Anyway, you know that thing in the movies where hot surfers prance around day and night garbed only in their board shorts worn so low on their hips you don’t need a lot of imagination to ‘see’ what’s going on down there? Well, I’ll have to say it’s pure fiction because that night, Tim was wearing a freakin’ shirt! Lugi kami, soli bayad! LMAO.

But back to Chickens Island. This tiny piece of isolated island just a few hundreds of meters off the coast of Thulusdoo was named so because the locals used to breed poultry there. But as the chicken population grew, the risk of poultry diseases that could be passed on to the consumers was also on the rise. And so the locals decided to stop breeding chickens on the island but the name caught on. According to this surfer guy, Chika (incidentally, the 5th best local surfer in Maldives) – who was also there on the island and was nice enough to show me the baby sharks and manta rays – some resort developer group has already won the rights to convert Chickens Island into an exclusive resort. If it happens, then perhaps it will bring more employment opportunities for Thulusdhoo residents. There is a fee of $5 per person at Chickens Island which you will pay directly to the caretakers over there. If you’re planning on spending a few hours on the island, be sure to pack food and water as there is nothing you can buy to eat or drink there. All in all, the island is charming in a raw kind of way and the beach does not have a lot of jagged rocks making it ideal for leisure swimming. Even though you might encounter a few baby sharks, I doubt if Mommy Shark is swimming close enough to bite off your limbs or other extremities. Here are some photos of and around the island:

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I love all these wharf things that you see almost everywhere in the beaches of Maldives.

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See that bloody spot on my left shin? That was the trigger to my tantrum that nearly rivaled the catastrophic Mt. Merapi eruption. Drama queen much, I know.

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In which it is proven that I can suspend irascibility for two seconds to do this.:P

Day Three was definitely not one of my best days and though on the surface, it didn’t look like I’d be able to bounce back fast enough for me to enjoy the sights and sounds of Malé the following day, I did manage to come around – but only after I had expunged all drama out of my system. Ouh la la. Thank you mon amour for being the soft voice of reason in the midst of all my irrationality. What can I say? I am a very lucky girl.

Malé, you’re next. :)

End of Part III