Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

15
Apr
14

DESERT SAFARI : DEFINITELY DUBAI!

A visit to Dubai is never complete without experiencing desert adventures. Dune bashing, sand skiing, dune buggy, barbecue dinners, camel rides, and for the more financially equipped, hot air ballooning during sunrise. These activities may be so touristy but heck, they’re almost synonymous with this future-forward city. Desert Safari’s one of the must-do when you’re in this part of UAE!

It was a blessing that my former students and I met for a dinner where I was treated to a Korean-Japanese gastronomic feast, and a spontaneous and no-brainer decision on my part to join them in Desert Safari was done in a blink. They arranged the tour and next thing I knew, I was with Karen and Joel seated comfortably inside Toyota Land Cruiser one Friday afternoon; what a perfect way to spend my day off at work! The same badass vehicle brought us to the sand dunes of Dubai within a couple of hour-trip.

After a quick mandatory stop over at a souvenir shop where necessary bladder breaks, removal of air from the wheels to make it more sand-appropriate, and ghutra-panic-buying on my part, we found ourselves ready and thrilled for the dune bashing!

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Mr. Azeem Rafaqat, our careful yet daredevil driver who picked us up in front of a hotel in Al Ghurair in Deira, Dubai, did very well on his job! It was an incredible and one-of-a-kind experience! There’s nothing like a sensation of  falling down from a steep mound of sand, followed by zigzag driving that made me feel we’re about to roll, scream and breathe my last! It was intense yet so fun!

About forty minutes after, we arrived at the camp. I was told by Karen who experienced Desert Safari 4 times already, that there are various camp sites where different tours operate. Upon the sight of ours, my Sympathetic Nervous System automatically slowed down as I savored an almost sunset-all-desert-view! Ahhhh, this is Dubai! :D

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I took photos of the friendly Emiratis at the camp site.
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Meet my Dubai Desert Safari travel-adventure buddies, lovebirds -Joel and Karen (both wearing sunnies).
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Did I give justice to that ghutra?  Say,YES! Hahahaha!
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And because dune buggy driving costs 100 dirhams for 15 minutes only, we were content with just photo-ops!
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Although I skipped the 30-dirham-camel riding, I felt like the happiest kid on the planet with a falcon on my head!  Here, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is my most recent brag-worthy portrait to date! *kidding*
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Barbecue dinner buffet, unlimited distilled water and soda, belly dancing watching, henna tattooing, wearing of  traditional Arabic attires, were all inclusive of the 100-dirham-package per pax we availed.
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Open-VIP rooms that are surprisingly installed with air-conditioning units and come with priority food service (you don’t need to queue on the buffet spread as food is served to your table), alcoholic beverages are all available on extra charges.

Moving on, do I look like an Arab here?
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Joel had his arm tattooed with a scorpion henna. The beautiful henna artist drew it in few strokes in less than 20 sec! Amazing!
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As the sun over Emirati desert finally sets to make way to the moon, the fun continued within the camp.

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Appetizer was nothing less than Chicken Shawarma, that has been my favorite!
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One of the highlights of Dubai Desert Safari is watching belly dancing! My eyes and camera were glued to two dancers who did fantastic shows!

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A faux sword on her belly. Belly Dancing, literally!

Audience participation made it more engaging!
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Then buffet dinner spread was served! Despite the queues were long as there were approximately more than a hundred guests that weekend, everything was kept systematic and in order. I got my food quickly on my plate and made sure I had everything I want to sample. Arabic food’s delicious!

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Grilled Chicken was well-marinated! It was simple yet so tasteful! Kebab was OK too, the same with Biryani, Potato and Veggie Salads. The Spaghetti was infused with real stewed tomatoes that appealed to my palates as somewhat authentic (as I’ve been to Italy! Hehehe!) as compared to my Filipino-Spaghetti-preference (that’s often sweet and rich). Over all, I liked everything on my plate! There’s no reason to complain.

While everyone was still feasting, a man in a traditional attire (of unknown Arabic origin) came out and went on stage. Karen was telling us, that this is the man she calls, the human BEYBLADE!

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And why not Beyblade? That man did nothing but turned and rotated and twisted non-stop!  I repeat, non-stop turning for more than 4 minutes! Not to forget he had props on his hands while dancing, err, turning, and his multi-layered skirt lit up like, uhm…beyblade!

I was worried he’d have nystagmus (oh, you know, the involuntary movement of the eyes after spinning like a ballerina, or worse, loss of equilibrium or ataxia) but No. He maintained his great stance and stood like he didn’t dance like a beyblade! Bravo!!!

 

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From 3PM-9PM that Friday (11/04/2014), I forgot all my worries, stress and problems.  Amazing what a few hours in Dubai Desert Safari could do to my being! I went home to our flat with satisfied wanderlust!

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Azeem Rafaqat of Arabian Eagle Tourism | 055 2711018 | azeemrafaqat63@yahoo.com

>><<

17
Sep
13

MANILA | SEPTEMBER 2013

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
~ George A. Moore

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A fruit stand in Jenny’s Rosario, Pasig City.

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Street scenes I saw when I secured Overseas Employment Certificate/Exit Clearance from POEA in EDSA.

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Chowking, Robinson’s Metroeast. I shared the table with my parents prior watching the movie, OTJ.

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Shots from LRT in Recto, Manila.

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My mom and aunt walking with their long umbrellas. They accompanied me to Quiapo & Divisoria.

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Despite its busy surrounding, Quiapo Church never fails to remind me that God is merciful and forgiving.
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At Php 16 per piece, this lumpia from Globe Lumpia House in Raon, Quiapo, Manila is one of the best I’ve tasted!
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My mom, together with my maternal aunt bought me half a kilo of Excelente ham. Perfect with pandesal!
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Then they brought me to Kim Chong Tin Hopia Factory, the oldest in Manila. Hopia munggo is to die for!

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Escolta, Manila.

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The fountain in front of Sta Cruz Church, Manila.

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At Lucky Chinatown Mall. Also new to me were 999 Mall, Puregold and a few others. Divisoria, we meet again!

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Lunch at 168 Mall foodcourt.

In my darkest moments, I found my way home.

I thank the merciful Lord for few people who have been helping me to move on, despite and in spite of.

I shall return to my present work in Penang, Malaysia soon.

>><<

12
Mar
13

A VISIT TO ORPHANAGES IN PENANG : PART 2

Memorable. It was the day when CHARITY & GENEROSITY were defined to Gabby by his own experience.
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We left the first orphanage we visited in Penang nearly lunch time and headed to the next two. Together with Malaysian bloggers, organizers and a few sponsors, we hopped on the airconditioned bus provided by Langkawi Coral and shortly, we reached The Children Protection Society.

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More than stories we hear about orphanages, beyond tales we read on newspaper, everything we saw in The Children’s Protection Society warmed our hearts. I didn’t need to tell Gabby to further appreciate whatever things he has; the scene we saw speaks for itself. I, myself was reminded by the experience to be grateful with big and small blessings. We may not have everything in life but what matters most is the fact we remain thankful for what we have.

It felt great to be welcomed. :) We briefly toured the quarters of the kids while they’re still on special function that weekend; saw their rooms, kitchen, hallways where they keep their books on shelves and donated goods. The sight made me wish to do more!

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The Children’s Protection Society welcomes VOLUNTEERS to help them out with various tasks and those who could provide helpful inputs.

Learn more how to YOU can help through :

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*Gabby at the orphanage’s kitchen.
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*No hint of boredom or fatigue. It felt good to reach out in our own little ways.

Each of us can do something for these children. Volunteer. Donate. Participate.

THE CHILDREN PROTECTION SOCIETY | 118-A Jalan Scotland, 10450 Penang, Malaysia

website : http://www.cpspg.org.my/ | e-mail :  cpspg@hotmail.com | Tel No / Fax: +604-8294046.
*This blog post is part of the series that includes :

Again, thank you to the sponsors of this worthwhile activity :

>><<

07
Sep
12

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE : NEAR AND FAR

glorious sunset in penang

Believe it or not, this is the usual scene that my family and I enjoy from the tiny balcony of our 11th floor apartment in Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia just before dusk. Watching the glorious sunset every day is astronomically far from being boring. It’s a priceless view from our home that’s located near the highway just before the bay and overlooking one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, GeorgeTown, Pulau Pinang. The sunset and the island looks near yet so far. :)

This is my entry to Weekly Photo Challenge : Near and Far

31
Aug
12

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE : FREE SPIRIT

free spirit : butterflies

Butterflies to me are best to represent this week’s theme, FREE SPIRIT. From the day they acquire wings after being Chrysalis that oftenly mistaken by some as pupae, they freely lord the air, flying from one colorful bloom to another.

This is my entry to Weekly Photo Challenge : Free Spirit. :)

17
Oct
11

TROPICAL PLAYGROUND

Few weeks before Gabby turned 7 last 5th October, he candidly told his mom and I that he’d like to have beach toys as birthday gift. I smiled from ear to ear because apparently, it won’t cost me and Tina our arms and legs. He already had a set which he used when he enjoyed the powdery white sand and turquoise crystal waters of Philippines' Island Paradise, BORACAY a couple of years back, but of course, we didn’t bother to bring those to Penang. Then we thought, what’s the use of beach toys without going to proper venue, right? It’s a subtle way for our kid to utter his wish to take him to where he can play his preferred birthday present. How creative! :D

The 10th floor unit that we’re renting in Butterworth has a priceless sea view, breakwaters actually with white sand too. However, it’s such a “buwis-buhay” (read : life-threatening) to cross the highway (motorway or freeway; whatever suits you!) on foot. Thus, we found time to actually give way to Gabby’s birthday wish.

Glorious sunset view from our living room


8th October 2011, Saturday. Tina, Gabby, my dad and I hopped on Rapid Bus 101 en route to Tajung Bungah from Jetty in George Town. After almost 40 minutes, we got off the bus near Infinity condo building and saw this road sign:

Several steps more from the bus stop via the narrow street, we found the public beach that was recommended by one of my senior colleagues who lives with his family in a nearby condo unit.

PUBLIC BEACH means NO ENTRANCE FEE! One may truly enjoy the sun, the sea breeze, the waters (if you dare swim at your own risk!) without spending a cent other than bus fare and your efforts to go there. Indeed, ‘best things in life are free!’

Those upscale condo units in Penang's premiere location have monthly rental fees that start from 1,300 ringgit or USD 416 (PhP 18K) and can soar as high as 15K ringgit or USD 4,800 (PhP 207K+)!

And the 7-year-old boy became excited for some seashells and sand…
Admittedly, my first impression of the public beach in Batu Ferringhi was unpleasant. Batu Ferringhi has a stretch of beaches that comes after Tajung Bungah. Muddy, dirty, and far from Boracay and Philippine resorts’ qualities. Let me emphasize those initial insights were of public beaches in Batu Ferringhi in 2010. The sand and waters along Penang’s hotels and resorts (Shangri La’s Rasa Sayang, Hard Rock, Flamingo and many more) in Batu Ferrhingi are off topic. Nonetheless, Tajung Bungah public beach, although far from being sublime, is good enough venue to unwind. Tina professed we’re so coming back!

We strolled to look for a spot…
Then the weather became too cloudy that we thought there will be downpour. What’s great about Penang is its strategic location –we’re far from the routes of typhoon, there’s no class-suspension here; no storms yet in my more than a year stay. And so in almost a blink, the strong winds blew these dark clouds away.

A few more steps and we saw people frolicking in the beach, some were having fun on water sports -kayaking and jet skis. I am guessing they’ve availed it from the nearby Flaming hotel…

A closer look…

The place is also perfect for camping; we saw families who managed to bring and set up tents with barbecue grills, tables and other stuffs. No corkage fee here, haha!

Fun with ball games is also a possibility.


And being lazy on the sand until you appreciate the sunset and the stars is also can, can! LOL! (FYI, Malaysians commonly use the phrase, “can, can!” when they want to affirm something).


Finally, Tina removed her rubber shoes and spread our blue blanket…It could’ve been more apt if we brought a plastic mat but we don’t have it, so a soiled fleece did the job before it hits our washing machine.


Gabby followed by dropping his beach toys…

Et voila! Gabby’s masterpiece included Mr. Crab…


We stayed in Tajung Bungah public beach at almost an hour and left the place at 6 in the evening. We headed to a steamboat buffet after, that I will post on a separate entry.

08
Aug
11

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

One afternoon, I came home to Tina and Gabby with these 3 wooden pull-me-down puppets which I spotted at a store near our place. With tacks, I pinned them on our appartment's door. They may be cheap but they symbolize something about our family. That to me, at the end of the day, it's just the three of us.

I’m going through trying times the past week and although regret and putting blame on me may be useless at this moment, I’m still taking all the charges. Lessons are definitely learned the hard way.

On top of a private issue concerning me and my parents, our almost 7-year-old son, Gabby has been having loose watery stools and occasional vomiting since last Friday, 05 August and needless to say, Tina and I have been so worried. 

Instead of the service-van-driver, his school teacher/owner had to drive him home earlier last weekend because he initially had his first episode of vomiting in class.

Despite the fact that we knew based on history, that he doesn’t like its taste, we still tried to give him ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) to replace electrolyte and fluid losses but he just vomited what he drank.

I bought Smecta Dioctahedral (Smectite) which is an anti-diarrheal powder to be dissolve in water, Gabby didn’t like its taste too given its orange-vanilla flavor.  Amidst his LBM and vomiting, we’re thankful that he remained up and about with no signs of dehydration.

Fast forward to Monday morning, before conducting my lectures, I consulted our medical university clinic and asked for some pediatric medicines, luckily, they have and provided me for free as part of our employees’ benefits. (read : Can you easily imagine how difficult it is to deliver a lecture on Muscle Contraction and Nervous System Physiology in 3 classes almost the entire day and your child is sick at home? I was actually begging for prayers for our kid from my Muslim, Indian and Chinese students)

Nothing is more difficult for any profession than being a doctor and you become helpless when you’re family is in unhealthy state. Kung pwede lang akuin ang sakit ng anak, ginawa ko na.

Like a preschooler who receives his report card with marks of “Needs Improvement“, I know I have to change a whole lot of myself particularly in dealing with problems head on.  I should learn to calm down and pray in troubled times; keep words to myself that might hurt someone.

One of the 2 senior colleagues here in Penang whom I respect and value the most, reminded me that these things are nothing compared to what he and his family, and other people who are severely burdened went through. The other senior fellow who also understands me never wasted time and visited Gabby and Tina in our unit despite she came from long hours of trip from work commitments.  Even with little words, both of these people have been constantly inspiring me to be tough through tough times, continuously motivating me to do only what is right and had moved me to further love my family next to God. 

With hope and prayers that Gabby’s condition will improve soon, I also ask God’s forgiveness for whatever words I have said to people whom I’ve hurt particularly my family.

I may be one of the worst sons on the planet; I may be astronomically far from being the best husband to Tina but I am trying my best to be a good father to Gabby.

To all parents and people who may be emphatic to my situation, your prayers for our kid will be highly appreciated.




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