My restless soul has a strange relationship with the little red dot on the world map. In the six years I studied and worked in Singapore, I spent my days planning adventures and craving excitement in the far reaches of Southeast Asia. But when I moved away in 2011, I was filled with nostalgia and a curious desire to rediscover Singapore itself – especially given that it’s just a short hop and an e-visa away from India.
I’ve discovered hidden beaches, password-protected bars, mangroves to kayak through and pristine forests over my last few trips to the country; it’s time to spill the secrets:
Leave your footprints on a hidden beach
You’ve reveled in the underwater world and manmade beaches of Sentosa. Now ditch the crowds to find solitude at Lazarus Island – an undiscovered, undeveloped stretch of coastline where soft white sands are caressed by gentle azure waters. To…
Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.
We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.
It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside. 😐
Couldn’t even fit the whole building into the frame.
Model of Burj Khalifa inside of the building.
The view At The Top – 2nd highest observation deck (124th floor).
We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.
Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.
NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.
While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)
After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.
Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattan… times 10. 😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.
The day was here. It was only less than 2 months before that I’d purchased the tickets…
Xmas Day 2014, the middle of the night. It was 04:00 and I wasn’t sleeping well for some reason. I decided to get on social media and I saw what I thought was a joke – glitch fares for different flights going to select cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I hesitantly checked. Lo & behold, the prices were real. I nervously clicked the “submit” button. I was so excited that I sent a text to my close friend saying (something to the effect of)
“Listen, I just bought a ticket to the Middle East for (insert low dollar amount here) round-trip. When you get up, text or call me and let me know if you want in. It’ll be my treat.”
I dozed off, then the phone rang a little after 08:00 or so. My friend called to say
“Are you kidding me? HELL YEAH I wanna go!”
I laughed, got back on the internet and to my surprise, the glitch fare was still there. I bought her ticket while we were on the phone, then said
“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy 4th of July, don’t ask me for shit for at least a year.” 😐
I then tried buying a ticket for my oldest nephew, who’d told me that he has wanted to visit the Middle East (Dubai specifically) for a long time, but the website said he was too young (15 at time of purchase) to have his own ticket. So in other words, I should’ve bought his ticket with mine. (He came over later that day for Xmas lunch/dinner and told me that he’d have missed a lot of school if he went. I’ll plan around his school vacations next time.) So I said to my friend
“Since I can’t bring (oldest nephew), I’m thinking about who else I can treat…”
I knew my uncle couldn’t go, and my aunt is too fickle & fidgety to sit on an hours-long flight. So even though I wanted to take them, I knew it’d be a no-go. The first person that came to my mind after them – my ex-stepfather. Although he and my bio mother divorced ages ago, he has been a good presence in my life. (I still call him my stepfather.) So I called him and he was on the road with his wife, driving down South for Xmas vacation. I told him what was up, he immediately said “Okay”, and I bought the ticket.
“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy Father’s Day, Happy every holiday.” 😐
I was so excited, I didn’t sleep for about 24 hours after that. 😐
I booked accommodation and a couple major attractions over the next few weeks. 02.18.2015 approached quickly and soon, off we went. We had a layover in Chicago for about 90 minutes, then a 13 hour flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi – crossing many time zones and not arriving until 02.19.2015 in the evening. Since we arrived late, I didn’t take many photos that evening, but I took some beginning the next day. Check them out below.
ibis Abu Dhabi Gate and Novotel Abu Dhabi Gate – 02.19.2015
I’m back stateside since Thursday morning 02.26.2015. I’m dealing with severe jet-lag (happens anytime I go overseas), so it’ll take me a few more days to return to normal and type a proper blog post (or two) about this trip. But in the meantime, here’s a taste of what it’s like out there. I’ll be back soon.
I’m grateful for: seeing my sister & stepmother this past weekend. Having Friday off to visit them. All of the gluttonous food I ate while there. A weekend of relaxed fun. The ability to travel again for the first time in over a year. Employment. Being true to myself. Ridding myself of toxic people online (and offline).
I’m creating: a newer physical body (hopefully). An improved & stable life (hopefully).
I’m enjoying: the silence.
I’m thinking about: how I can help a loved one medium- to long-term. Calling someone back about my professional hours because they haven’t called me back yet. My next professional steps. Whether or not to sit tight at this job for a bit longer; don’t want to upset my current semi-stability until necessary. Getting a ticket to go back to England to handle unfinished business (hopefully November, if the price is right). Visiting my stepmother & sister again in a couple of months. At least one leisure trip to take later this year (hopefully). That recent tarot reading (yes, still) because it was that insightful.
I’m reading: the same book from the last post. Should finally be able to get a Kindle by the end of this month.
I’m looking forward to: relaxing a bit this weekend.
I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: being independent & self-sufficient again. My professional credentials (slowly but surely). My debts. My boundaries. Embracing myself.
Around the house are: bags of recycling due for pick-up tomorrow.
In my kitchen: some pasta that aunt made. Some pizza that uncle ordered (and I haven’t touched).
I’m planning later in the coming week to: research another professional credential. Call the person back about my professional hours. See what kind of Kindle I want. Check flight prices to London. Attend that doctor’s appointment. Continue working out. Buy a measuring tape to keep track of inches lost (if any). Find a book-bag/backpack to hold my gym clothes, instead of my current flimsy bag. Cook – haven’t done so in over a week. Group gathering with a Facebook person who became a real life acquaintance/friend to a few of us in the Facebook group.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: If we are to have true peace in the world, we must find it within ourselves. DailyOM
This link resonated with me so much that I decided to post it on my blog. It resonates with me more than most people will ever know (but may discuss at a later date?). You never know who’s going through what under the surface.
The portraits are from the United Kingdom (London, to be exact). Thanks to Alternet for this link.
I volunteered in Uganda almost 10 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and I wish I could go gorilla trekking like this blogger just did. If this is something you’d consider doing or that’s already on your bucket list, check this out.
I volunteered in Uganda almost 10 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and I wish I could go gorilla trekking during my volunteering, like this blogger just did. If this is something you’d consider doing or that’s already on your bucket list, check this out.