Aye, The Stork Has Landed!


Today, I take a break from travel writing (Okay, let’s get real here. I am far from a celebrated travel writer/blogger. I just happen to travel quite a bit and occasionally write about my trips.) to talk about something personal, yet incredibly magical. The proverbial stork has paid our home a visit and I am now 17 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy. I have been meaning to blog about it since the day we found out five weeks into my pregnancy, but Hubby and I decided we would wait until we’ve done the First Trimester Pregnancy Test (FTPT) and are assured of our baby’s health and normal development. Weeks have gone by and somehow, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe just how unrestrainedly excited I am – WE ARE – for the coming of our baby.

What I’m about to say is totalement cliché but I will say it anyway: What I am experiencing now is simply too beautiful for words. That pregnancy in itself is a life-altering event in a woman’s life – especially this woman – is a universally-accepted truth, but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming joy and occasional bouts of trepidation (Am I really ready to become a mother? Am I going to be a great Mom? What’s going to happen to my career after this? Will I be able to get rid of my pregnancy weight and how soon?) of actually going though it myself. The physical changes that my body goes through week after week is just one thing. The mental and emotional tumult (in a good way), is another.

It’s not because Hubby and I are worried for any particular reason. Deep in our hearts we know that we are both ready for the big picture responsibility of parenthood. Although we have been a couple for more than seven years (married for nearly three years out of those seven), we mutually-agreed at the beginning that we will not be rushing into parenthood for a handful of reasons. Some of those, I admit, were decidedly selfish but necessary in the way that they helped us become more prepared for what’s to come. Not to say that we already know exactly what to do – no one can possibly be that deluded – but we are trying and learning day by day. Do we regret having a baby quite late as opposed to getting right down to it at the early stage of our relationship? Not really, no. There are merits to spending a good amount of time as husband and wife, first, considering we spent much of our boyfriend-girlfriend years trying to make our long distance relationship work. We took time in nurturing our relationship and now that we have built a pretty solid foundation, we both felt it was time to bring in a new member to love and care for as much as we have done for each other all these years. Or perhaps even more. For isn’t it that children can bring out the selflessness you never even knew existed in you?

It was late last year when we started having serious baby talks and I won’t lie to you: I was starting to worry about my ovaries ageing faster than I could even perfect a pincha mayurasana (which I still haven’t learned to do unassisted, by the way) pose. I am 35 and I am not one to age-shame, but that sounds pretty advanced to me. Unfortunately for us women, our ovaries simply don’t decide to stop ageing at 21. Besides that, there’s also the late pregnancy risks to consider, i.e., the increased risk of Down’s Syndrome for the baby and also the potential risk on the mother’s wellbeing – if the mother is not very healthy to begin with. Thankfully, I have been living a somewhat healthy lifestyle for many years now. Yes, I do binge occasionally like any other human being with natural urges, but I try to compensate for it with a lot of weird exercises and then some.

To make things a little bit more compliqué, I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which means, my hormones are completely out of whack and I’ve been told that getting pregnant may not be as easy as boiling eggs on a kettle with a timer. And because of my hormonal imbalance, I had to take hormonal pills for several years. So when we decided to have a baby, I prayed that I won’t have wait too long because, again, ageing ovaries, and well, we thought it would be really lovely to deliver our baby in Singapore, just as the nation celebrates its 50th year. After all, we did get married in Singapore on 12-12-12. Why not take the number play a notch higher and go for a Jubilee baby as well? LOL.

We may have been over enthusiastic about the whole let’s-start-a-family thing when we were in Europe last February (oh yes!) that I had the highest hopes of seeing those two blue lines when we got back from our winter holiday. But instead of two, I saw only one blue line, and I could feel myself slowly sinking into the abyss of sadness, that gnawing feeling of inadequacy, and aching worry. Weeks passed and my period still hasn’t come but at the same time, I was feeling these weird symptoms that were terrifying me because they were raising my hopes so far up – and I was afraid of crashing down in a pile of rubble. Hubby saw how distraught I was with the result of the first HPT and it was affecting him, too. The week before my second appointment with my OB, I took one of those HPTs and again, no two lines. By this time, I was oscillating from sadness to frustration and some other wild emotions in between, that it was pretty hard to play catch-up with my mood swings. Poor Hubby.

Finally, I went to see my doctor, primarily to complain about my period taking an extended break and the two happy lines not showing meanwhile. It turns out, I got false negatives on my HPTs! I was alone at that time as Hubby had a meeting he couldn’t get out of and anyway, we didn’t really expect anything different other than the singular line during that particular visit, so I didn’t really push him to go with me. So when I called him immediately after I stepped out of the clinic to break the news of my pregnancy, we were both so overcome with joy that’s unlike anything we’ve ever felt before. So freakin’ intense! I mean, if I thought having raclette and an undisclosed amount of wine up in the snowy French Alps in winter with was pure bliss, knowing that I have this beautiful seed blossoming into life inside of me is about a million times blissful! God has heard our prayers and we are going to become parents!

So for the last few weeks, Hubby and I have been quite busy making all the preparations for the little one’s arrival. And since I will most likely be blogging about pregnancy, motherhood, and the whole shebang far more frequently in the coming weeks, I should probably end my post right about here. On my next post, I will have tips and funny stories to share, so I hope you’ll stick around for that as well.:)

Oh, did I tell you that we are having a baby boy? Mais oui, c’est un garçon!

xoxox

My 17-week old bumpie.
My 17-week old bumpie.
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TRAVEL: KRABI-utiful Weekend


For only our second travel adventure of the year, Hubby and I chose to hie-off to the island of Krabi in Thailand. If you recall, not too long ago, I kind of gushed about my soft spot for Phuket. But as much as we adore this island, I couldn’t really bring myself to go there again. At least not so soon. And so Krabi, which is an adjacent island, and one that I had never been to prior to this trip, won almost by default. Like going to Phuket, it only takes an hour and a half (sometimes less, depending on how efficient and fast the aircraft is) to get to Krabi from Singapore via air. As most of you would probably agree, when you only have the weekend to burn, short trips make practical sense.

When we landed at the Krabi International Airport at half past three in the afternoon, I thought it wouldn’t take us half an hour to cross the immigration and collect our weekend luggage because there weren’t (at that time) an overflowing number of tourists. And so we took the stairs leading up to the second level of the airport building where the Immigration checkpoints were located. Half an hour passed and we barely moved an inch. Something clearly wasn’t right. People were getting restless. A few of us would leave our queue for a few seconds to sneak a peek at the Immigration situation and see what could possibly be causing the hold up. That’s when we realised that there were only two counters open and with the officers’ very slow and deliberate processing of each visitor, it would take about three to five minutes from the moment you hand you passport to the time you get it back with a stamp! Two more planes landed and offloaded their passengers and the hall got even more crowded and chaotic, with the slippery sort of tourists cutting queues whenever they can. I flew off the handle several times, it was like having mini coronary episodes every 5 minutes that we were stuck there. After almost two hours (yes, we ended up queueing at the immigration longer than the time it took us to fly from Singapore to Krabi), we were finally out and had only an hour or so before sunset. Luckily, our airport pick-up waited patiently for us and we were no sooner on the road to the resort.

Pakasai Resort's welcoming committee (member)
Pakasai Resort’s welcoming committee (member)

We stayed at Pakasai Resort in Ao Nang, Krabi. From the outside, Pakasai Resort would strike you as just another regular resort you’ve probably visited in most of your travels. But once you step into the property, your impression drastically changes from ‘Okay, I could stay here’ to one of sheer wonderment. At least that’s how positively our stay in Pakasai has affected us.

Pakasai Resort Krabi _vickyras

The place was built entirely around the little forest the owners and their staff have worked very hard to cultivate. I don’t know exactly how many species of plants and trees they have inside the property but I’m guessing it’s quite a lot. They even grow their own salad vegetables, as well as, make their own compost fetilizers. It’s like living in the midst of a happy, fragrant garden (with the occasional pee-like smell coming from one of the tree species there, the name of which I had forgotten) with the cicadas serenading you with their unique sounds, especially during the day when the temperature is absurdly high. More or less an hour away from the Krabi International Airport, Pakasai Resort gives its guests the unique experience of being so close to nature (by that I mean trees and flowers and the insects and small animals that have made the place their natural habitat) and at the same time, a few meters’ walk to Ao Nang Beach.

Pakasai Resort Krabi_vickyras

The rooms are spacious with individual balconies (some of which have the swinging daybed) and big bathrooms. I especially loved the shiny hardwood of our bedroom floor and the ultra comfortable bed which had us sleeping like babies during the two nights that we stayed there. The are no lifts at the resort so if you are given the room on the higher plane of the resort (we were at room 421), you will be taking several steps on a slightly steep incline. Hubby and I loved it though! I mean, it’s a pretty good exercise for the legs, too. There aren’t a lot of channels on the TV – only one movie channel in English and the rest are news, TV5 Monde (French), a German channel, and some channels in Thai. But it didn’t really matter to us because we were too happy exploring the resort and the nearby beach.

Pakasai Resort Krabi _vickyras

Food is not bad. Breakfast selection is quite diverse. The pool sitting on top of the restaurant is pretty neat. The water is great and super clean and there’s a pool bar to cater for your drinking needs. Lastly, all members of the resort staff are hands-down wonderful! Always cheerful and eager to serve. We are DEFINITELY coming back and when we do, we are thinking of doing the guided bike tour around the island and taking Thai cooking lessons – two things the resort offers its clients.

Pakasai Resort Krabi_vickyras

There’s that and a few other things that we absolutely loved about Krabi. First of all, Krabi is nothing at all like her raunchy, nasty bad-girl big sister, Phuket. Perhaps it’s because the island is predominantly Muslim (we saw more mosques than buddhist temples on our way to Aonang Beach from the airport), which explains why it’s quieter and people were more – for lack of a better word – proper.

So here’s our list of favourite things (to do) in Krabi:

Sunset dinner at the Long Tail Boat Restaurant. We took a stroll down Ao Nang Beach just in time for the sunset, when we saw this row of restaurants along the banks, and decided with this one. Come to think of it, the cost of the food on this side Krabi is quite high compared with most of the restaurants elsewhere and my guess is it’s because of – you’ve got it right – the view! When you offer an unobstructed view of the sunset, I believe you have every right to charge a premium. Food was good – though perhaps not the best one you’ve had yet (if you’re a fan of Thai food – but who isn’t?!) because in Thailand, it’s not that difficult to find great local food. We ordered vegetarian spring rolls for starters, fried rice with crab meat, some fish dishes – and they were well-prepared. Food portion is just right for our kind of appetite. Though a small part of me wished they could’ve been more generous with the fried rice with crab meat. The restaurant staff were quite nice and friendly and we didn’t have any issues with the way our food was prepared and served. All in all, Long Tail Restaurant is a good place to dine at when you want a killer sunset view and you don’t particularly mind shelling out a bit more baht for it.

Sunset dinner at Long Tail Boast Restaurant.
Sunset dinner at Long Tail Boat Restaurant.
Sunset in Ao Nang.
Sunset in Ao Nang.

Sunbathing at Ao Nang Beach. I wouldn’t really put Ao Nang beach in the category of the world’s best beaches but it does have its fine points. Ao Nang is pretty charming during sunset, when you actually have a wide room for romantic walks on its fine, light-coloured sand, due to low tide. During the day, though, it’s not so easy to find a spot to put your blankets/mats if you want to sunbathe as the water occupies most of the shoreline. You may have to walk further down to where the ‘Last Fisherman’ bar is and if you’re lucky, you can have a nice little spot to plop on to. It’s pretty striking how much different Krabi is from Phuket. I love how quiet and less raunchy it is in Krabi, but with food and massages that are just as good as in Phuket, yet a lot less expensive. There are restaurants, massage places, and souvenir shops aplenty for you to discover. And speaking of massage…

Team Altaie in Krabi
Team Altaie in Krabi
Wheelin' it.
Wheelin’ it.

Get as many massages as you can until your bones are almost as malleable as claydoh. After our morning sunbathing session, Hubby convinced me to get a foot scrub with him. After foot scrub, we ended up having back and shoulder massage as well because we wanted to take advantage of the happy hour discount of 50% off published service rate! Note: Most of the massage and service salons along the banks of Ao Nang beach offer Happy Hour promos from 10am to 2pm. After our foot scrub and massage, we took our late lunch and went back to the beach for the afternoon sun salutation. As the sun started to descend, we gathered our stuff and walked over to this massage place we saw on our way to lunch, offering a One Hour Coffee Body Scrub + One Hour Body Massage for a jaw-dropping price of only 500 Baht! And so there we were, husband and wife, naked as the day we were born, getting pampered from head to toe at a fraction of what it would have cost us in Singapore. The massage place is called SMILE and I’m pretty sure they would appreciate more business from island visitors, so please do look it up when in Krabi.

Smile! Coffee body scrub + Body Massage (2 hrs), FTW!
Smile! Coffee body scrub + Body Massage (2 hrs), FTW!

Eat as much Thai food as your stomach can accommodate and digest. Who cares if you gain a pound or two over the weekend? You must never deprive your senses of a great meal – and especially not when it’s everywhere you look and it also happens to be super affordable.

Dined at Blue Mango on our last night. They serve local and western fusion-ish type of food. Not bad.
Dined at Blue Mango on our last night in Krabi. They serve local and western fusion-ish type of food here. Pas mal.

Repeat from one to four, until it’s time for you to leave the island. Sadly, all we had was one weekend so we had to stop at some point, right? But with our Krabi-utiful experience, don’t be so shocked when you see us back there again before the year is over.

Deep bend at sunset.
Deep bend at sunset.
Team Altaie: Seven years and counting!
Team Altaie: Seven years and counting!

Travel Thoughts Of The Girl With The Case Of The Elsewheres


Red Dune Safari in Dubai
Red Dune Safari in Dubai

Before my husband and I got married, we were often told to enjoy life as a couple; go on adventures together and travel as much and as often as we can afford before adding a new member to the family. We never sought to question the wisdom of those words because deep down, we have always known that the results are almost always worth the costs.

Travel while you have the advantage of youth and the friskiness of your feet, we were told, because as you get older and your responsibilities get bigger – family, education, mortgage and financial obligations especially – you will find it harder to pack up your bags and go on random trips. So. very. true.

Whether it’s a random overnight trip to the beach in Bintan, a weekend getaway in Phuket, Boracay or Bali, a rendezvous in the Middle East or even a carefully planned trip to Maldives, Australia or Europe, we have certainly revelled in the joys of traveling together as a couple. Traveling strengthens our bond in ways that perhaps no other activity could. Of course there’s the S word, but you know what I mean. And soon, when we have our little people, they will be taught to embrace travel and adventure because…

  1. Traveling is an awesome way to learn about other people’s culture and be seduced by languages apart from your own. Reading about cultural practices and quirks is easy, what with the plethora of available materials, but being present is a priceless experience you must never pass on, especially when you are young and fully capable of embracing people and cultures with wild abandon.
  2. Traveling makes an adventurer out of you. Being in a strange country or city brings out that side of you you never knew existed. One day you are riding a camel or an elephant and eating deep-fried crickets, the next day you could be cuddling a koala, petting a baby tiger, taking a selfie with a napping boa constrictor or swimming with the whale sharks. Or, you could be sipping a cup of coffee at a quaint little bistro one minute and dancing samba in the middle of the plaza the next.
  3. Traveling cultivates a deeper sense of love and compassion for Mother Earth and fellow human beings. The more you travel, the more you will learn that it is not simply about being mere tourists lugging around selfie sticks, although that’s how most of us start out as, but it is about knowing that there is a bigger world out of our comfort zones, with bigger issues to get involved in and confront.

So don’t always wait for the ‘perfect time to travel’ because you may end up not being able to leave your cocoon at all. Sometimes we don’t always know what a perfect travel is until we set foot in our destination and find ourselves wowed by little things we didn’t prepare for. You know, the physics of randomness and such. And if you are not traveling solo, it is best to travel with people you love and with whom you share a common lust for wandering and learning. Otherwise, you could be wasting so much time negotiating on your itinerary instead of feeling, seeing and tasting a luscious slice of the world.

DIY Tales: Repurposed Cabinet


The thing about being a married woman is that you tend to identify yourself with many different roles – superChef, superMom, exceptional wife slash part-time acrobat in bed – all at the same time. All good stuff, if you ask me, but you can also see how it might be challenging to ace all those roles simultaneously when you also have your corporate role and social life (or you know, the vague reality of it) to consider.

Married for two years now, with the same beautiful man I’ve been with for almost seven years to this day, I am still trying to get this wife role down. One thing I – we both – know is that we are truly blessed to have found each other.

On the home front, I have been learning how to cook and bake and Wednesday is usually when I would spend time in the kitchen after work, preparing homecooked meals which we will later on share while we talk about work, current events, finances and whatever plans we may have that beg to be discussed.  These days, our discussions mostly oscillate between having a baby, travel, kids’ education, retirement. There may or may not be some Netflix involved sometimes. And yes, wine – a healthy portion of it.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this when I’m supposed to be talking about an entirely different matter, though somewhat related, I might argue. So anyway, I’ve been going gaga lately about this home improvement type of things. I started with balcony gardening which is a great source of pride for me because I think we have one of the nicest balconies in the compound. Then I tried growing succulents indoors – an area where it seems I am no good at because I have had four of them die on my watch already and it’s truly heartbreaking. And then, there’s this thing called repurposing which I am now rather hooked on – thanks to Pinterest. In the last few days, I have been looking around the house for something I could repurpose.

Which led me to this…tadaaaah!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
From a sombre black, this cabinet is about to get repurposed into something more vibrant.

 

I was going through Pinterest one day when I saw this really nice repurposed cabinet painted bright red and I thought “Hey, I can do that!” So I immediately whatsapped Hubby and sent him a screen capture of the cabinet and told him I want to do the same with one of our cabinets. I may or may not have threatened him into submission, but it doesn’t matter because he replied with an exuberant “I’m in support!” message. Husbands are just so great, aren’t they?

First step was to get all the paint materials and getting the cabinet prepped for base coating. Meaning, since the original colour was black, I needed to paint it white in order for the ‘fire engine red’ colour to stick.

Step 1: Apply the base coat evenly.
Step 1: Apply the base coat evenly.

I applied three coats of the primer and left it to dry overnight. The following evening, after work, I proceeded to apply the first coat of Nippon ‘fire engine red’ paint and again, left it overnight to dry. On the third night, I applied coat number two and voila, it looked just about as fiery to me as ‘fire engine red’ could ever be. The only thing I was not very happy about was  the visible paint pattern/mark, clearly showing my lack of experience in handling a paint roller/brush. But never mind, I still think I pulled off a decent job repurposing an old cabinet. What do you think?

Imperfectly rouge. perfectly charming.
Imperfectly rouge. perfectly charming.

Now that I’m done with repurposed item number one, I am already thinking two steps ahead planning to buy one of those portable sewing gadgets, so I can rip apart old clothes and try to repurpose them into another piece of clothing or accessory. The operative word being ‘try’…so help me God.:)

‘Til then…

 

xoxox

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)
Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

Five Things to Consider When Going On a Holiday


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.

TRAVEL: Nine Things To Do In ABU DHABI


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?