Lapita Hotel’s daycation brunch: why it’s perfect for families

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Before I continue to write about my huge backlog i.e., blog posts about our travels last summer, let’s take a break and see what we’ve been up to lately. I can’t believe it’s November already. Wasn’t it just yesterday when the new year rung in? It’s scary how fast time flies. One more month and then boom, there goes another year gone.

There were so many changes in our family this year – the husband had quit working in Saudi Arabia since last April (he was in Saudi for one whole year, 3 months each time with a 2-3 weeks break in between) and started working in Abu Dhabi. He still isn’t home everyday but at least we’re in the same country and can be with us on weekends or some days, if his work schedule permits. This past year, the kids and I have gone to places without him and whenever we get a chance, we go back to the awesome places to show to him and to let him experience it too when he is here in Dubai.

One of those places is Lapita Hotel & Resort at Dubai Parks and Resorts. We’ve been to Lapita for the first time in February when they first introduced the Daycation brunch. We thoroughly enjoyed it however, it was too cold to swim in the pool at that time. We wanted to go again – the kids wanted to go again, with their dad this time. And we did!

The Daycation brunch at Lapita was back right after summer and we scheduled to go last week which was perfect because their Halloween celebrations were in full swing. The setup was awesome and scary enough for the little one.

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And before we could start eating at brunch, we went around to appreciate what they have prepared. The hotel’s F&B crew did a really good job with all the spooky food! Look at these works of art.

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Honestly, up until we visited, I never realized Halloween was such a big craze here in Dubai. Now, Halloween has passed but know that Lapita could be one of your best bet for Halloween themed brunches next year. ūüôā

Also, what’s wonderful with Lapita’s #DaycationBrunch¬†is that it’s buffet brunch¬†+ pool access. Swimming is a really great exercise to burn some of those calories away, you know?

Not many people were in the pool though the time we were there from 4pm. Benjamin was overjoyed to have his dad swim with him.

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There’s also a shallower pool for kids with a water play area and a lazy river.

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The adult pool.

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There’s a special buffet for kids, too and they can enjoy the Luna & Nova Kids and Teens Club between 1pm-5pm. There are hotel staff who can supervise and watch the kids leaving parents some time of peace and quiet while brunching.

Do I recommend the Daycation brunch at Lapita?

YES! Great food with lots of emphasis on fresh ingredients (the only problem you’ll have is how to get a taste of all the varieties in one visit), beautiful setting – where else can you get the laid back tropical Polynesian vibes without ever leaving town?

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Additionally, the hotel is a unique gateway to endless fun at Dubai Parks and Resorts, which is the home of three world-class theme parks and one water park, as well as Riverland Dubai. All guests staying at Lapita Hotel & Resort will enjoy unlimited multi-park access for the duration of their stay, in addition to complimentary Q-fast to all parks.

General Information:

When: Fridays, 1pm-5pm
Price: AED195 with soft drinks; AED295 with house beverages; AED95 for children up to 12.
Contact: +9714 810 9999, website

Hotel Club Rooms & Executive Floors: Are they worth it?

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We were upgraded to a club room on our latest stay at Grand Hyatt Dubai. It came as a lovely surprise and because we didn’t have any expectations on what a club room looks like or the perks that come together with it, we were delighted to find our room was bigger, the beds were bigger and totally enjoyed the higher floor accommodation and the access to the executive lounge.

I checked the price difference from a standard room (with breakfast) and actually thought, booking a club room maybe a smarter choice. At least here at Grand Hyatt!

What is a club room?

A room on the hotel club floor also called executive or VIP floor is an upgraded room and unless you’re upgraded on a complimentary basis, these hotel club rooms cost more. I calculated Grand Hyatt’s price difference: the club room costs 30% more.

What are the perks when staying at the hotel club floor?

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Depends on the hotel, if you stay on room at a hotel club floor, the perks would include complimentary meals and beverages throughout the day, well-appointed lounges, high-speed Wi-Fi, stunning skyline views. Grand Hyatt’s club floor is at the 14th floor which is quieter and offers better views. Each of the twin beds were queen sized, instead of single beds. Club-level guests get early check-in and late checkout.

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And this is probably the best hotel club floor room perk of all: they offer access to a club floor lounge with complimentary food and alcohol. At the Grand Hyatt, hot and cold drinks are available 24 hours and alcohol flows freely from 6-8 pm.

Are They Worth the Extra Cost?

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YES if: the difference between regular and club room rates is small.¬†You have the advantage of between-meal snacks and/or complimentary alcohol and if¬†you’re traveling with kids the free breakfast, in between meal snack and light dinner can actually be a budget saver! For us, ¬†a family of four, this can be a huge savings because buying waters, soft drinks, etc. gets expensive rather quickly.¬†Also, some families find it harder to get moving and out the door, so having the ability to eat on property without an additional cost for each bagel or orange juice can not only save money, but stress and time.

I might add that the “light dinner” offered at the club lounge at Grand Hyatt was enough for a real dinner for us. It wasn’t just light snacks or sandwiches – there was even biryani!

Staying at a club room could be a wiser choice too if you are not interested in going out to explore the destination and simply like hanging out at your hotel.

NO¬†if: You expect to be out and about for most of your stay¬†or you’d rather dine and drink outside the hotel or if your room package already includes meals.

So would you always opt for club rooms on your next booking?

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Wait, one thing to consider: not all club rooms and executives floors are equal.

Some properties may offer limited meals and snacks or feature a so-so drink selection or don’t offer alcohol (you would be disappointed if you expected that). Make sure to conduct research ahead of time by exploring your desired hotel’s official site as well as review sites.

Based on our experience, the club room perks at Grand Hyatt was well worth the price difference from a standard room and if we stayed again, we would choose to book a club room in the future.

One more thing we liked about their executive lounge is that it’s not only for executives (who prefer to work or have coffee quietly). There are two sections of the lounge, one dedicated for families which is really great for families with small kids in tow.

FINAL WORD

Club level room is worth it if the price is right and you’ve done your research. Always Google “(Hotel name) club lounge” to see the perks and offers. A great hotel¬†club level means an incredible room with complimentary first rate food and drinks all day (including alcohol during certain times – it was available at night at Grand Hyatt), enough that you‚Äôd never need to buy a meal elsewhere!

The price could put you off at first especially if you’re travelling on a budget but a great hotel club level rooms could give more bang on the buck during the duration of your stay. Compare before taking a decision!

Where we stayed: Grand Hyatt Dubai

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Way back in 2007 when we were new in Dubai, we needed to meet some people who set the meeting place at Grand Hyatt Dubai and I could not forget being so impressed the moment I entered the hotel. After all, we just moved here from Japan Рthe land of mini this and that. Small apartments, small cars, small portion sizes in restaurants, modest hotels.

And then boom, the first five star hotel I visited in Dubai was the Grand Hyatt with huge entrance hall, massive pillars, a gigantic chandelier and high, high ceilings! They really meant to stick by the word “grand” in the hotel name for a reason.

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My awe of this hotel did not end up in the lobby. As we moved forward to the restaurant, I could hear the sound of a waterfall and saw a large green patch area right in the middle. I thought, wow, I should take my daughter (who was then 3 years old) here! She would love the feeling of like being in the middle of the jungle inside a hotel. Now, it took us 10 long years to finally book a room at the Grand Hyatt

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The UAE enjoyed a long weekend last week for the Islamic New Year so we thought to have a family staycation at a hotel but didn’t want to drive far. There are many hotels in Dubai that’s located at the heart of the city but offering resort-like facilities. The Grand Hyatt was an easy choice.

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It was the last few days of September and while it’s starting to cool down on most parts of the northern hemisphere, transitioning from summer to autumn, Dubai is perpetually summery with highs of still on the high 30’s (celcius) late September. That said, the hotel’s main swimming pool was the reason why we decided to give this a hotel a try.

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This isn’t actually our first time to see the pool at Grand Hyatt, we visited last year when we were members of Privilee and Grand Hyatt was one of the participating hotels and have never forgotten the wonderful experience, especially how Benjamin loved the kid’s pool with mini water play with slides!

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And if you think the main pool is awesome but don’t want to toast, that’s sorted out too with their indoor pool with jacuzzi on the side. However, save for the small area with 0.43 meters depth, the wonderful temperature controlled indoor pool has a uniform depth of 1.60 meters so if you are non-swimmers like me or with small kids without swimming aids, that would be an issue though you can still stay at the shallow side or stick to the sides. The indoor pool is open 24 hours so anyone can enjoy it, whenever they feel like.

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LOCATION

The Grand Hyatt Dubai is about 20 minutes from Dubai International Airport and located at Oud Metha, near Dubai Healthcare City. Though public transport is not near, there are many taxis that could take you wherever you like. Downtown Dubai (where the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa is located) is only 15 minutes away by taxi.

OUR ROOM
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We booked a standard room but surprisingly, was upgraded to club room which we truly appreciate! The rooms were bigger, comfortable twin queen size beds and spacious bathroom. We were at the 14th floor of the hotel with sweeping views of the city, with downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa on the horizon.

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I’ll be writing a post why it could be smarter to book a club room than a standard room, depending on your stay needs. So watch out for that!

BREAKFAST

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The main breakfast is at The Collective, at the ground floor. Extensive, international flavorful breakfast with many healthier options like fresh fruit smoothies, fruits, detox drinks. It is right beside the indoor waterways and green space and with plenty of natural light coming in from the roof, so it felt like having breakfast on a garden, with a waterfall only, it is indoor (and without bugs hovering around!)

HOTEL RESTAURANTS

The Grand Hyatt has 13 award winning bars and restaurants. We used the Entertainer voucher to get buy 1 get 1 free at Wox Asian restaurant for lunch. It’s a delight to see the live cooking station at this open kitchen style restaurant and the food was great too (simple noodle soups for the win!). We have to go back again.

For Friday dinner, we tried Andiamo, described on their website as “Northern Italian cuisine in a light-hearted, contemporary atmosphere.”

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The newly renovated restaurant’s ambiance was impressive, cozy and rustic. Food was authentic, delicious and prepared fresh! I’ve been in many restaurants where the only Italian thing was the name. Finally, upon the suggestion of a blogger friend, we tried “Andiamo!”

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After eating so much stuff, we were contented and did not think to have dessert. But the server suggested that we should have their Tiramisu. OMG, I hope you saw my video post on Instagram about this tiramisu, it’s easily the best Tiramisu in town. You can hate me if you don’t like it. It’s not your usual made-days-before-and-refrigerated tiramisu. The cream was soft, velvety and not too sweet. It’s made fresh they even leave the sprinkling of the dark chocolate powder to the diner. It was heavenly. This tiramisu would haunt you when you have that sweet cravings.

I highly recommend Andiamo! to those seeking to eat authentic and freshly made Italian food. And believe me, you would want to go back for the Tiramisu!

FINALLY

If being near the beach is not a priority and you’re looking for a city hotel in Dubai that provides resort-like facilities and guarantees a grand time for everyone, kids and adults alike, Grand Hyatt could fit the bill. All of us are overwhelmed by the wonderful service and overall experience we asked ourselves, why did it take us 10 years to finally consider this hotel for a family holiday?

benja and ducks

If you’re living in Dubai and have not been to Grand Hyatt, don’t miss it or don’t be like us and wait for ten years before checking in. It’s worth a stay or even just a visit.

P.S.
At Grand Hyatt’s sprawling gardens, you could even meet and make friends with ducks!

We booked a deluxe room at Grand Hyatt but was upgraded to club room with access to the executive lounge (THANK YOU!) however all opinions are mine.

Where we stayed: Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, Jordan

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If I tell you, “I was in a wonderful beach resort in Jordan!” would you look at me like I got my geography wrong? Or if you think of a “beach vacation” would you even think of Jordan?

When I thought of Jordan at first, beach was far from my mind (except the “beach” at the Dead Sea).

After our amazing time exploring the seemingly mystical wonder that is Petra, we moved to the south of the country to Aqaba –¬†a Jordanian port city on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba is¬†Jordan’s year-round aquatic playground with its balmy winter climate and idyllic setting. Aqaba is a top destination for scuba divers, with notable dive sites including the Yamanieh coral reef.

(The distance between Petra and Aqaba is roughly 166 km and travel time is approximately 2 hours and a half by car.)

There are plenty of hotel resorts in Aqaba but we stayed at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay. The hotel is both modern and and comfortable and provides a good option for those who prefer to stay outside the bustle of cities whilst still having access to all the amenities.

Aqaba makes for a good stop-off point on an itinerary for some relaxation, as it is located close to both Wadi Rum and Petra.

LOCATION

Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay is a perfect base if you are going to visit Jordan’s only coastal city of Aqaba or see the majestic, massive wonder of Wadi Rum, which is less than an hour away by car.

ROOM

It was dark when we arrived and we were dead tired from all the walking we did at Petra. Thankfully, the staff at reception was kind and forgiving and made our check in process smooth and fast and whisked us to our room immediately.

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We had a room with a very smart, effective layout for families, with a big bed and two single beds in a partitioned section for the kids. Our room was facing the pool, a great view to wake up to every morning.

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FOOD

Breakfast was complimentary with international fares and live cooking stations for eggs, pancakes and waffles. Staff were attentive and very friendly. The all day dining restaurant serves lunch and dinner but we only had dinner once and the food was average for me. Many diners seem to be enjoying though so I must have been out of my usual appetite that night.

WIFI

There’s WiFi with great connection speed all throughout the property.

HOTEL GROUNDS

One of the hotel staff gave us a tour and took us to the hotel’s garden. The idea is to create a “fresh market” where guests can harvest for their own meal, healthy, organic and freshly picked ingredients. They just started it so it’s small for now but it looked promising. I like the concept.

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We  toured the property on our first morning there and it was very beautiful, well manicured, tidy grounds, with multiple pools, including a small heated pool so you can still enjoy in winter. I can imagine a lot of families with kids enjoying these amenities during warmer weather!

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BEACH!

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The hotel has direct access to the beach, too.¬†For many, Jordan’s¬†main attractions are its ancient historical sites¬†yet, despite the mystical beauty of Petra or the out of this world charm of¬†Wadi Rum, beauty can also be found along Jordan’s¬†coasts. I believe¬†Tala Bay in Aqaba¬†has some of the most beautiful resort destinations in the Middle East.

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That is the Red Sea by the way and those mountains in the horizon is Israel. It was cold in December but the view was so beautiful we couldn’t ignore it so we braved the cold winds and took a stroll here every after breakfast.

What a lovely place to stay, with all those pools and a beach resort where you can just chill and forget about time. Two days wasn’t enough so if you’re going to stay there, and now that you know that you can enjoy beach time in Jordan, make your stay¬†longer than two days at the Movenpick Tala Bay!

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We already miss the quiet mornings and our strolls at the beach. Hoping to be back when it’s warmer!

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Why I recommend staying at Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay in Aqaba, Jordan:

  • A great option for families, with a Kids Club and Family Rooms (and yummy Movenpick ice cream!)
  • It has a great spa with hydrotherapy area – relieves those tired muscles! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • The resort has¬†a 150-metre long private beach
  • An ideal place for divers, the resort has its own dive centre and offers a number of snorkelling and diving trips (we did not go to any snorkelling or diving trips)
  • Located 15-minutes from Aqaba city centre, the resort is great for those who prefer to stay out of cities but stay in an accommodation with 5 star amenities
  • The staff goes¬†out of their way to assist so we¬†feel welcomed and they made¬†our¬†stay more enjoyable

*****

We were guests at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay however, all opinions are mine.

Back at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

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On my travels, visiting different cities, there are cities where I can say, “I can definitely live here!” and cities where I can say otherwise. One of those cities that’s so difficult to like is sadly, my own birth country’s capital of Manila. And this situation hasn’t changed much when I was in the city just a couple of weeks ago.

We arrived at the airport from our already 2-hour delayed flight from my home town in the south still hopeful we can rest immediately once we get to the hotel. Our hotel is only in Makati area (a highly recommended hotel which I’ll discuss in a bit), a mere 3.5 kilometers from the airport but we spent more than an hour on the road due to crazy traffic brought about by road constructions and diversions in and around the Ninoy Aquino International Airport premises. Was it just a bad day to be on the road? Or a bad time?

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Thankfully, we had airport pick up service, arranged by the hotel. In Manila, I always opt for a safer and more reliable way to get to the hotel from the airport by asking for pick up service rather than do the guess work or get on a bogus taxi. Our driver was so professional, the car clean and assured us that despite of the power play at the roads, he will get us to the hotel safely.

We were back at the Holiday Inn & Suites Makati last month when we were on our way back to Dubai and had to spend overnight in Manila. The kids and I first stayed at this hotel last year and this year, is the husband’s first time. Last year when we were here, I told myself, when the husband comes to the Philippines, we’ll definitely choose this again.

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Why, because I felt very safe and secure in this hotel. Security is tight and they have trained dogs that work on shift to sniff luggage that enter the hotel. Rooms are spacious, staff are very friendly. Special shout out to Ms. Shari who had the most sparkling eyes of all the hotel staff I met ever. They also have this wonderful service to settle the check in process in the room itself. Or have they read my thoughts that I want to be taken to the room as soon as possible?

It was already getting dark and almost dinner time but when I asked them if dinner first or we’ll go out to see the pool, the answer was sure and quick.

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It has been 13 years since he last visited the Philippines and I didn’t want to stress him out too much and wanted a hotel that conveniently located in the city center but you can still feel safe and confident to venture out. The hotel is connected to the Glorietta Mall in the commercial center of Makati City (Ayala Center) so it means everything is right at the doorstep. We had a little time to walk around the mall and buy stuffs to take home.

When we came back, we redeemed our drink vouchers given to us as IHG Rewards Club member at the Citron Lounge Bar.

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Next day’s breakfast was superb at Flavors restaurant where the food was lovely, there were traditional Filipino food as well as international and mine and Benjamin’s absolute favorite: fresh mangoes you can request.

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Our stay at the Holiday Inn & Suites Makati was short but faultless. I wish we could stay longer to try out the Oz bar at the pool but we have to leave early for the next leg of our flight back to Dubai.

I highly recommend this hotel when you are in Manila, one for the proximity to the airport, the good food, spacious and clean rooms and mostly,for the excellence of service and warmest welcomes.

You know I have stayed in a fair number of hotels in the past, some I have written about here. But what counts most is the courteousness of the staff addressing us like they know us personally – the kids were asking me, “Why do they know us, mom?”, genuine smile (don’t know how they do it when they have to do it everyday) and that little extra effort whether it’s a handwritten note or a piece of your favorite in your room or at breakfast.

We had a peaceful sleep and cannot hear anything from outside despite the central location of the hotel. Benjamin woke up early and opened the windows.

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There are so many different hotels in the Makati area, with the same size and stars but probably cheaper than Holiday Inn & Suites Makati but I guess guests would really love to go back to this one because of the staff and people, hotel guests or otherwise – they won’t forget how you made them feel, no matter how brief the encounter.

And most of all, this ‘home away from home’ that the hotel gave made us forget of the horrible traffic in Manila. (The next day, when we left the hotel, the journey to the airport only took about 30 minutes or maybe less.)

To learn more about Holiday Inn & Suites Makati and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati but all opinions are my own. Top photo from the Intercontinental Hotels Group website.

Win an all weather Catalyst Case for iPhone!

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School has started again in Dubai and my kids are back from their long summer vacation spent in the tropical country where there are a lot of water action. Of course, I would want to take photos of them near or in the water but have you been to the beach or pool and feel so intimidated and scared to take photos or videos with your phone when you’re near the water? And have you wished you can take your phone in the water with you?

I hear you. I truly know the feeling.

My daughter loves to swim and she does so many underwater tactics that I’ve always longed to take a video of her underwater. So, I did a lot of Google search along the lines of “best waterproof cases” or “top all weather cases” and found the Catalyst brand always on the list. I know I need this in my life!

The Catalyst heavy-duty case for iPhone ($69.99) in spite of its slim profile, is one of the best protective, waterproof and impact resistant cases available on the market. I like most is that the case itself is pretty straightforward – not too bulky but still solidly built. Once you snap this case together, you’ll need a coin to pop it open. That’s how you know it doesn’t ‘accidentally’ open up underwater when you use it.

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It’s designed to be waterproof (YAY!) to 5m (16.4 ft), meet military standards for drops up to 2m (6.6 ft) and is made of premium quality materials including impact resistant polycarbonate, a soft-touch rubber bumper, silicone seals and air and water tight acoustic membranes.

Assembling the case is pretty easy and I am amazed the home button use is very responsive that it can even detect my fingerprint even when wet. Sometimes I find the touch screen access less responsive than I’d like it to be the longer it’s wet. It‚Äôs easy enough to set up your camera app and start shooting, but your texting speed may suffer. But it’s not like you need to text a lot while swimming, right?

Thanks to my new Catalyst case, I am able to capture my daughter’s smiling swimming pics underwater!

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And I am never scared to take my phone to the beach or pool again.

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Here in Dubai where it’s (almost) always beach or pool time all throughout the year, this nifty, sturdy and very trusty gadget is a must. I’ve never been confident taking pictures while at the beach or pool without my iPhone inside the Catalyst Case.

All-in-all, the Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone is a solid, rugged waterproof case. Snap your iPhone into it and go outside for some new adventure because the case is well worth the peace of mind and having this case will help you capture great photos and videos that you might not get otherwise.

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Like, if I didn’t have this protective case, I won’t ever get this close to taking their pictures while in the pool! Or capture my brother’s volleyball action on the water.

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Catalyst’s whole product range are not only cases for iPhones but for iPad, iPad mini, Apple Watch and waterproof sleeves for tablets and laptops.

WIN!

Ok by now you’re thinking: I need to get that for my iPhone, too! I’ve got you covered. You can win a Catalyst Case for your iPhone by entering this awesome giveaway via the below widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Can’t wait to win? You can purchase the Catalyst Case online at CatalystLifestyle.com or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to check out their latest news and offers.

Where we stayed: The Bellevue Bohol Resort

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If you have read my previous travel posts, I am all about travelling for less. I believe you don’t have to be rich to be able to see places and we’re fine with budget travel: staying at basic accommodations, use public transport, simple meals and fly with budget airlines. However, there are times when a life celebrations call for a little bit of luxury, those out of this world experiences you must enjoy¬†even for once in your lifetime.

This year, 2016 my parents are married for FORTY years and that day too, on my father’s 67th birthday. Now these folks, my parents…they have been raising six kids tirelessly and still continue to dote on their grandchildren. Oh and if I remember, they didn’t go for a honeymoon trip, either! I do think they deserve a much needed break and a taste of luxury so I took them to The Bellevue Bohol Resort in Panglao island!

Mama and Papa has not traveled much within their own country for pleasure, together. They are not used to traveling for pleasure (duh, who has the time and resources when you are raising six kids!) and are anxious with what comes with travel, in July in the Philippines when it’s rainy season, especially if it involves getting on a boat overnight, hopping to another island.

Can you imagine how much I prayed they’d say yes?

LOCATION

The Bellevue Bohol Resort is in Panglao island, located southwest of Bohol and east of Cebu. Just 15km from Tagbilaran, it works just fine as a base for exploring the rest of Bohol. We traveled from our hometown of Cagayan de Oro City aboard Trans Asia ship going to Tagbilaran, the capital city of Bohol. The ship left at 7 pm from Cagayan de Oro and we arrived at 4:30 am in Tagbilaran the following day. Sounds like a long trip? Nah, you can barely feel it since you’ll probably be sleeping through the whole 9+ hours sea journey.

Related post: Travel guide to Bohol island.

The resort is located at the opposite side of the already popular (read: sometimes noisy, chaotic and crowded) Alona Beach strip where night life is reportedly exciting. But this staycation was for my parents who are in their 60’s who never cared for night life even in their 20’s so the location of Bellevue Bohol Resort at a more secluded part of Panglao island meant more quiet time with family and more privacy.

CHECK IN

When we arrived at the resort, we could smell the sea once we stepped out of the van that picked us up from Tagbilaran port earlier. The reception area is not a typical hotel reception, it’s open air from the entrance…

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…and onto the koi pond, beautifully manicured gardens, infinity pool and the beach!
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The reception staff who greeted us when we arrived guided us to the elevator immediately. But wait, we are yet to check in, right? Yes – but you can do the check in process from the room! I love hotel/resort features like this. We just arrived at 4:30 am from an overnight boat journey and the bed wasn’t really comfortable so it’s a big plus to go straight to the room and fall face flat on the bed.

THE ROOM

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First things first, we were upgraded to the Presidential Suite! Now, there are more than 150 rooms in the whole resort but only ONE Presidential Suite. My jaw dropped to the floor. I am so happy for all of us! And it wasn’t only my jaw that I had to pick up from the floor when we entered our newly assigned massive room! My parents too, and the kids and my brother, all of us! (Click on each photo to enlarge)

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The Presidential Suite is so well and functionally designed that anyone walking in or staying would think: I want my house to be designed like this! The interiors even have my favorite color of orange and teal (the colors of my blog!).

The Presidential Suite features two bedrooms with their own balconies and living areas. Furthermore, it has its own fully-functional kitchen and granite-topped bar. You can always request for cutlery set, pots and pans, if required. It’s perfect for families or group of friends. It was perfect for us: my parents in the main room with a king sized bed (they are still in shock with their luxurious room, bathroom and balcony) and me, the kids and my brother on the other room.

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When we’re done with the check in process, it was sunrise and we all had to rush outside. We didn’t want to miss this view!

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THE BEACH

What’s a resort life without checking out the beach? The beach front had powdery soft, white sand which is regularly maintained and cleaned. There are several chair lounges with umbrellas.

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The water wasn’t too deep though and you can only swim through the shallow part as there are lots of sea grass at the deeper part. I know some won’t mind.

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If you’re not into swimming, there are several water activities available like paddle boarding, kayaking and so much more. You just have to ask the diving center. Panglao island has several smaller island within its vicinity and the resort offers day trips to those island (Virgin island, Balicasag island or Pamilacan island) for dolphin watching! The motorized boats leave as early as 5 am.

THE POOL

We need to talk about this pool. I think I’ll never run out words to describe it. It’s easy so say this has been the best pool I’ve been to so far. The infinity pool style stretches out the view to the sprawling open sea. The depths are 2 feet, 4 feet and 12 feet. The 2 feet is for the kids and it’s very big, look!

bellevue bohol pool

The water is temperature controlled too so it was easy to convince my parents to dip in. I tell you, they are not pool people. But here, they swam till they were sore! My mama loved to just sit by the pool with the kids in the morning. Oh such precious moments.

grandma and p and b

We loved swimming in the late afternoon, when we’re promised the island’s glorious sunsets.

pool sunset

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT BELLEVUE BOHOL RESORT (and why you should stay here!)

As if it’s not obvious how we loved everything about the resort from what I’ve written above, I’m not done yet. The food was excellent.¬†The buffet breakfast is extensive with traditional Filipino, Asian as well as international food¬†and the selection they have are satisfying. Thumbs up to the taste too!

* Lamian, the restaurant name means “tasty or delicious” in Visayan dialect and for sure they lived up to the name. The restaurant serves guests all day. We had buffet breakfast and lunch and though a bit pricey but it’s not everyday we get to celebrate something special and my parents’ smiles made it worth it. They’re very simple people who’s not into buffets but they loved the food at Lamian. It’s not a “just because” buffet. The quality of food is something else – thanks to locally sourced ingredients and chefs who take the renowned southern taste of food to the next level. My father who rarely eat pork loved the humba, an authentic Bisaya dish of stewed pork with sweet and tangy taste.

breakfast collage

Other amenities in the resort include is the Game Room that is open until 8 pm. There’s a soft play area for kids, air hockey, Foosball, table tennis tables and an arcade basketball shooting machine FREE¬†for all guests. There are also computers, PS3 setups complete with competitive games. They also have some books, DVD’s and even board games you can borrow.

bellevue play room

Ah, the grandeur that is Bellevue Bohol. It was a great time in paradise. I could understand why so many families were there and staying for a stretch of days to a week. It’s a wonderful resort to stay with the kids (more about that in the next post). The only bad thing about it is that you would be sad when you leave.

plant in the beach

Here, it’s not just the sea, sand and sun (and the infinity pool! and the food!), the truly warm hospitality natural to Boholanons (natives of Bohol) really shines through and made our experience much more special. Thank you, Bellevue Bohol Resort team for taking care of us. We will never forget our short but very relaxing and memorable stay at your property. Thank you for the surprise complimentary cake for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary AND another one for my father’s 67th birthday.

bellevue staff

Lastly…

Though I believe that it’s not¬†required¬†to splurge on important life celebrations (even my wedding was ultra simple), my parents deserve this little luxurious break.¬†I am truly grateful for these two people who stood through thick and thin, in good times and mostly during bad times for me and my five other siblings. Where would we be without them?

Happy 40th wedding anniversary, mama and papa. I am happy to see you happy like this. I love you!

mama and papa 40th wedding anniv

To learn more about The Bellevue Bohol Resort and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We were guests at The Bellevue Bohol Resort, however, there is no obligation to write a favourable review, all thoughts and opinions are mine.

Where we stayed: The Bellevue Manila

2-5

I have a confession: Metro Manila makes me anxious.

In fact, I wish I don’t have to go through the Philippines’ capital city whenever I go back to my first home, in the south. Why? Because I am not familiar with the place and the stories and news of crime don’t help erase my anxiety. I hate the traffic as well. However, since there is no international airport near or in my hometown, I have no choice but to pass through Manila International Airport each and every time I visit my parents in the Philippines. Even if I arrive in Manila in the morning, the long haul flight (9 hours from Dubai), I always prefer to stay overnight to rest it out, especially if I travel with the kids and fly out by noon time the next day.

So my goal is to find a clean, safe place to stay for the night + not too far from the airport. This time around, we stayed at The Bellevue Manila, in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Wait – I did say I wanted a hotel not too far from the airport but Alabang? I know most will be quick to ask, “but isn’t Alabang far?

LOCATION

Filinvest City, Alabang where the hotel is located isn’t exactly ‘near’ the airport per se, if you look at the map. Makati would probably be nearer in distance but surprisingly, the trip from the airport to the hotel only took less than 30 minutes via the Metro Manila Skyway. The Bellevue Manila‚Äôs location within the Alabang Business District brings you close to dining and entertainment spots like Alabang Town Center, SM South Mall, Festival Mall and Alabang Business District.

CHECK IN

lobby

The check in was smooth and fast, the staff on the desk was very friendly and accommodating and made sure we get our room access cards quickly so we can rest. We were assigned to the 16th floor of the main wing of the hotel.

We were asked to give a PHP2,000 deposit per night, per room as incidental deposit. This was refunded during check out.

THE ROOM

What do you check first when you get in your hotel room for the first time? I check for views outside the window! Philippines is into the rainy season right now and overcast skies like this is very common – as in every day, especially in the afternoons. I love how green Alabang and the surrounding areas are. It’s definitely a relief from the concrete jungle of central Manila.

from the window

from the window 2

The kids and I stayed on a deluxe room with very comfortable king bed. The room is clean and wide with the usual amenities like a wide screen tv with cable, a work desk and a free WiFi with strong connection.

room

hotel bed

One of the things I love about this room is the bathroom. What is your bathroom preference (be it in your home or in hotels)? Mine is separate shower and bath tub. There was also a hand shower as bidet near the toilet bowl. Now that was a surprise as it’s the norm in the UAE and I actually prefer that than without after living in Dubai for a long time.

bathroom

We could see the pool below our 16th floor room so I know we have to check it out. The weather was overcast at around 30C but there was wind and humidity was low. The water looked really inviting! I love that the pool is long enough for laps to relieve jet lag.

pool

For dinner, we checked out the Japanese restaurant Hatsune inside the hotel, in the Tower Wing. There were many Japanese guests, which means, the dishes served are trusted to be authentic enough. We have not dined out in a Japanese restaurant for a while in Dubai because our favorite joint was closed during the whole month of Ramadan.

hatsune

The next day, we woke up early to have breakfast at Cafe d’ Asie. The breakfast spread was good with Filipino, Korean, Indian and Japanese dishes. We love that there was miso soup and maki rolls.

DSC_0338

We ventured out outside when we saw a 24 hour Jolibee restaurant outside the hotel. If you’re a Filipino living abroad, it is but imperative and automatic reaction to eat at Jolibee as soon as you’re back home. I don’t usually go out of hotels where we stay to keep safe (unless the hotel is connected to a mall) but the streets outside Bellevue Manila were clean and very peaceful. I did not feel unsafe at all.

outside the hotel

We enjoyed our short stay at The Bellevue Manila and it definitely satisfied the requirements that I needed for a safe, clean accommodation while in the capital and it wasn’t far from the airport at all! Our flight was at 12 noon the next day and we left the hotel at 9:45 am, just in case. We reached the airport at 10:30, took a little time as there was little traffic at the Skyway because of the rain.

Next week, we’re off to another Bellevue property – this time, in Bohol island! 

To learn more about The Bellevue Manila and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We were guests at The Bellevue Manila but all opinions are my own. Top photo from the hotel website.

Where we stayed: Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

lobby 1

We spent a wonderful weekend at Traders Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi and couldn’t be happier.We’ve never been to the Qaryat Al Beri area before but within minutes of arriving, we’re already pretty sure we would like to be back soon. Just a little over an hour drive from The Dubai Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, Qaryat Al Beri is a little piece of paradise very close to Dubai.

sunset under maqta bridge

TIP: When you go to the hotel around sunset time, don’t miss to stop when you drive beneath Al Maqta Bridge.

We were lucky to be at the right place and at the right time to witness this beautiful sunset with the silhouette of Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque against the crimson sky.

When I first heard of Traders Hotel, all that was in my mind was that this must be strictly for business hotel. However, internet research showed it is not just for business but for leisure and families as well. The lobby is huge and welcoming and the vibrant, funky colors are proof that this hotel is upbeat and modern – certainly not just for the modest business traveller!

lobby 3

View outside the hotel – you can easily tell this is a resort type hotel.

traders front 1

Traders is managed by Shangri-la and follows all the protocols, service and food quality standards of the Shangri-la brand.

LOCATION

Traders Hotel is located within the Qaryat Al Beri complex and is a 10-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport, five minutes from Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and 15 minutes from the city centre. It overlooks its own private beach and is directly across the water from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (covered by another property but visible as you walk towards the neighbouring property Shangri-la).

Christmas tree on the beach

The beach area out at the back side of the hotel is well kept and the sand is clean. There are lots of sunbeds and other comfortable seating available .

beach side morning

THE ROOM(s)

We stayed at interconnecting rooms (perfect for families staying with children) at the Traders Club floor. The Traders Club Superior rooms on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors are sleek and modern, affording guests access to the dedicated Traders Club Lounge and full Traders Club benefits.

room 1

room 2

The rooms are very spacious, with king sized beds which were very comfortable.

The bathroom is large with a monsoon type shower, amenities and a separate bathtub. A hotel with a separate bathtub is always a winner in our book!

bathroom

We had a sea view room on a top floor with magnificent views from the balcony. One of the first things I check after entering a hotel room is the view outside. I couldn’t complain…

view from balcony 1

TIP: Booking a club floor is such a great value. Guests who stay at any rooms in the club floor get access to the Club Lounge with breakfast, all day tea/coffee, soft drinks and alcohol and nibbles between 6pm and 8pm, and of course, free WiFi and a place to work, overlooking the private beach.

TRADERS FOR FAMILIES TOO

The property was very family friendly, starting with the staff who never fail to make us feel at home, especially our kids. There’s plenty of space to run around and a playground to boot!

playground 2

playground 1

If swimming on the beach is not your bet while staying here, there’s also a pool, which unfortunately small for the size of the hotel. We did not have a problem with the crowd though as not many were keen to swim at the time we went there (around 10am).

pool

But how many would prefer to be in the pool if the beach is so close by?

DINING

The hotel is serviced by the all-day dining restaurant Afya that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet was good and staff were alert and attentive to everyone’s needs. You can also opt to sit outside for al fresco breakfast while enjoying the lovely sea breeze.

afya

afya 2

FRIDAY BARBECUE NIGHT

Every Friday is barbecue night at the beach with wide spread international buffet, mixed grills of meat and seafood. Shisha also available.

bbq night 2

bbq night 4

What’s great about it, other than the food? There’s a play setup for kids which means quiet dining time for the parents!

bbq night 3

It was quite chilly when we were there so we’re glad there were heaters placed all around the dining area to keep us warm. Strange things happen when you live far too long in desert land – you become sissy with the cold once the temps drop below 20C!

bbq night 5

We enjoyed the lovely dinner under the stars (that sounds so romantic, I know and it was) while the children played in the bouncy castle and in the sand. It is really the loveliest time of the year to be outside.

bbq night 1

WHAT WE LOVED MOST

great weather

Our stay at Traders Qaryat Al Beri was faultless. Everything from the rooms to the service was ace. Add to that, the property was really a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city – the green surroundings, the soft sound of the lapping waves…it is a breath of fresh air, literally.

walkway to Shangrila

We really liked our early morning walks in the promenade to the Souk/Shangri-la Hotel and back.

walkway to Shangrila 2

water across mosque

Souk Qaryat Al Beri (the souk between Traders Hotel, Shangri-la Residences and Shangri-la Hotel), is a contemporary adaptation of a typical Arabian market, with abras (water taxis) ferrying visitors round the waterside complex via meandering man-made canals.

abra 2

abra 3

The children are thrilled to be in the small motorized boat. We passed through the narrow canal to Traders from the Souk and back again to Shangri-la. Hotel guests can enjoy this service free of charge.

abra 4

LASTLY…

If my photos don’t do this place justice, you simply have to go and see for yourself (you won’t regret it). I would have no hesitation recommending this hotel to anyone, whether travelling on business or leisure and highly recommend for families. We had a great time and would love to celebrate family milestones in this hotel or simply a long weekend staycation in the future.

santa surprise

If you’re looking for a high quality class of a hotel and not at 5 star prices, then give this hotel a look. 

sunset from the balcony 2

To learn more about Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

We were guests at Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri but all opinions are my own.

Where we stayed: Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City

Intercontinental Dubai Festival City

We had a long weekend for the Islamic New Year and after living in Dubai for almost nine years, we find ourselves running out of ideas of where to go or what to do when a few days of holidays strikes. Recently, we’ve been staying at home more than going out but it would be unfair for the children so I thought it would be the perfect time to use the loyalty points I got from the IHG Rewards Club for one night hotel stay!

What is the IHG Rewards Club?
Through IHG’s Rewards Club, you can earn rewards at more than 4,900 properties within IHG’s extensive network of hotels, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites properties. The program also offers a variety of ways to use your accumulated points, ranging from paying for hotel stays and air travel to purchasing goods and services online.

I chose that we spend our rewards night at the Intercontinental Hotel Dubai Festival City because it’s the nearest IHG hotel from our home.

LOCATION

Intercontinental Hotel is at Dubai Festival City, a large residential, business and entertainment development in Dubai. It is very close to the airport and access to other parts of the city is easy via taxi or private cars.

Intercon DFC lobby

Hotel staycations are always a hit with the kids (actually for all of us) – there’s a change in atmosphere, big comfortable bed, nice view outside, pool time and for me, not having to wake up early to cook breakfast on a Friday morning (our weekend here).

THE ROOM

living room 2

bedroom

50,000 IHG Rewards Club points = 1 night stay at a deluxe room at Intercontinental Hotel Dubai Festival City. The room as surprisingly huge. It’s very comfortable for families staying with children. There’s also a kitchen, a separate walk in closet, bath tub and separate shower room. It is very spacious! 

And the view outside our hotel window…lovely.

header shot

POOL TIME

One of our favorite part of any hotel stay is time at the pool. The weather is easing up on us and it’s so wonderful to swim and just relax by the water.

Intercon stay 5

pool

And of course, just lounging in bed watching a movie. We never do this at home because we don’t have a tv inside the bedroom!

friday relax

We loved our short but wonderful stay at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City. The staff were courteous and always helpful, we’re happy with the room and the pool and the breakfast (not included in the rewards club redeemed room).

Intercon DFC lobby 2

You can read and see more pics of our stay at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City from the IHG Destination Guides page.

Disclosure:This post is brought to you in collaboration with InterContinental Hotels Group as part of their Rewards Club scheme promotion. The views and opinions are entirely mine.