Here’s to more fun weekends with Privilee!


Nothing more timely than a treasure of information about Privilee flashing in front of me on a random day last week when I was scratching my head on where to take the kids for the weekend. The weather in Dubai is getting better and better and that means we’d like to go back to enjoying the outdoors! So happy with my new Privilee card – it’s more pool and beach time for us!



Privilee is an exclusive membership club giving you access to the most pristine private beaches and luxurious leisure facilities at fabulous resorts, hotels and beach clubs across Dubai.

Not only that, but also huge discounts at a wide selection of award-winning restaurants and preferential rates at the member hotels.

A membership with Privilee lets you enjoy unlimited access to beach clubs, spas, gyms and sports facilities at the following Dubai hotels and resorts (current list, many to be added in the future):

  • Conrad
  • Double Tree by Hilton
  • Dubai Polo Club
  • Fairmont The Palm
  • Habtoor Grand
  • Grand Hyatt
  • Waldorf Astoria
  • Kempinski HotelPalm Jumeirah
  • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi
  • Le Meridien Dubai Mina Seyahi
  • Shangrila SZR
  • Sofitel
  • Riva Beach Club
  • The Address Dubai Marina

Newly added, in Abu Dhabi:

  • Saadiyat Beach Club 
  • St. Regis Abu Dhabi
  • Ritz Carlton Grand Canal

I think whoever thought of this brilliant idea is a genius! And so perfect for those who want to enjoy Dubai’s luxurious offers and not sacrifice family or personal budget.


We first used our Privilee card at the Grand Hyatt last weekend and the kids enjoyed the massive pool area with dedicated pool for kids, complete with mini slides and lots of facilities for fun water play (even I enjoyed it a little too much).

Considering that the access to enter the pool area on a weekend/public holiday is AED200/day for adults and AED100/day for each child (x 2 kids for me), we could’ve spent AED400 but got free access thanks to our Privilee card.

And that is only by visiting one of the hotels in one weekend! Another visit to a beach club next weekend and the card pays off by itself.

Didn’t I tell you this membership is awesome? In case you are wondering:

Are there any limitations on how often I can use my Privilee card?

No, you can visit the beach clubs, spas and gyms at all partner hotels all day, every day, on weekdays and weekends. Now you do the Math on how this gives value for money for your weekend getaways! Oh, and you can also go to the beach clubs, pools or gyms EVERYDAY if your schedule allows you to!


A Privilee membership is a single membership that starts at AED599. Each membership covers for one adult member and depending on the hotel, up to 2 children under the age of 15. You can contact Privilee directly to inquire about other membership plans that suits you (you’ll be surprised the prices are too good to be true).

There’s no affiliate link here – I just really want to spread information about this wonderful membership and together make our weekends a little luxurious!


  • Call first to check availability (the hotel can’t take reservations)
  • Come very early to get sun beds at the exact location you want to
  • Spots are limited for Privilee members in some resorts, so you might think of going early if it is the weekend or public holiday


Parting words about Privilee: I wish I’d known this sooner! But better late than never. I can’t wait to hang out at all these awesome and cool luxury places with the kids using our Privilee membership.

ALSO – Since Privilee gives you not only access to the beach clubs and pools at resorts but also gym access, I would recommend Privilee instead of a gym membership if you are not the type of person that commits to one gym – plus on top of that you get pool/beach access! How’s that for motivation?

So here’s to more cool hang-outs for lazy days in the sun, fine dining options and a rejuvenating break from the hustle and bustle of the city thanks to Privilee!

If you have any questions about how to be a member, you can contact them by email at or use the contact form at their website. You can also shoot me an email and I’ll try to answer as much as I can based on my experience being a Privilee member.

Beach time at Ajman


The United Arab Emirates is composed of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah – all of which have coastlines. We’ve been to the beaches of all the Emirates except one, in Ajman. Ajman is the emirate just 30 minutes drive away from where we live so going to a beach in Ajman is actually nearer for us than say to go to the beach in Jumeirah (in Dubai). I’m not really sure why we’ve not been to a beach in Ajman till now.

The husband’s going away for work again and we thought it was a good time to spend a weekend with the kids at the beach. He himself wanted to go so a spontaneous decision lead me to looking for a place to stay in Ajman. It was already Thursday night on a long UAE weekend for Eid Al Adha so all the major hotels in Ajman are either fully booked or with inflated rates. We stayed at the Ajman Beach Hotel, a 3-star property seemingly dwarfed by the huge hotels along Ajman corniche. You could tell that this hotel must be one of the first ones to be built along the corniche before the big wigs like Ajman Palace or Ajman Saray or Fairmont came to be. The hotel is very basic but clean and decent enough.

TIP: If you’re a family of four and keeping budget by choosing only one room, better choose the twin beds rather than the double bed. Otherwise, get another room for the kids. Ajman Beach hotel was great value for money if you only go there for the beach (it’s the same stretch of beach anyway from the nearby big hotels) and not mind the lack of hotel facilities.beach-2

The hotel elevator was very small and the reception was really slow. Ah, I could list so many other inconvenience but it’s just because we’re used to staying in bigger hotels with better services and amenities. But come to think of it, with the price we paid, the hotel wasn’t really bad.

The saving grace of this hotel, though? The lovely private beach, which is the same stretch of beach with powdery, soft white sand and clear waters. When we went to the beach, we completely forgot about the small room or the not-for-the-claustrophobic elevator or the noisy split aircon in the room!



When we arrived just after lunch, it was still so hot (yes even in mid-September when we were there) so we had to wait for a while to go maybe right before sunset. The kids of course, couldn’t wait and though we’re speaking in all the languages we know, they can’t seem to understand when we say, “it’s still too hot!” or “wait till 5 pm”.

Finally, when we went out, the heat was milder. The tide was low so you have to really walk so far out to get in the water.


I must admit, I am not a really big fan of going to the beach. Maybe because with a small kid, it takes a bit of work to prepare the things, the clean up but then when I am there, I realize how stupid that thought is because when I am there, I can get lost in time just lying on the soft sand and listening to the waves. (It helps if someone is there to watch the kids and I can only do this when their father is here so I took this rare opportunity!)

The beach in Ajman was wonderful. We loved that it wasn’t so crowded – actually the morning after, we were the only (crazy) ones to be swimming at 10 am. Look how clean and clear the water is!




The beach was idyllic. The powder-like sand, the warm sea breeze and sea water, the rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves were setting the right ambiance for a relaxing family vacation.

However, when we finished swimming, I got the kids to the shower and I was wonder why my husband did not follow. I saw him on the shore picking up snack wrappers, candy wrappers, plastic bags and other objects and other marine debris. I guess they might have floated into the water from the nearby public beach or had been left behind by previous vacationers. 

Did you know that marine debris, especially plastics, is harmful to wildlife and the environment as a whole? Seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles often ingest floating plastic bags and debris with lethal consequences.

So, next time you go to the beach or park, please pick up after yourself. Don’t leave trash behind. The trash on the beach/shore was an insult to the lovely, pristine beach – something we all would like to preserve for our kids and the generations and generations after that, right?

Where we stayed: The Bellevue Bohol Resort

bellevue entrance

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?


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.


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…

bellevue resort entrance

…and onto the koi pond, beautifully manicured gardens, infinity pool and the beach!
to the beach

hashtag bellevue 2

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.


bellevue facade

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)

[envira-gallery id=”53468″]

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.

happy mama and papa

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!

sunrise 1


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.

bellevue beach 1

bellevue beach 2

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.

bellevue beach low tide 1

bellevue beach 3

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.


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


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.

A Travel Guide to Bohol Island, Philippines

bohol featured image

After our trip to Camiguin island last year, my siblings and I vowed, we would explore the other islands of the Philippines, one at a time or at least one island every time we meet up for homecoming, each year. We are six siblings, with FIVE living abroad and having different vacation times as per our work schedules. It’s difficult for all of us to be home at the same time so we make the most of it and whoever is home, go together for out of town trips.

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,100+ islands – we’ll never run out of islands to go! This year, we picked Bohol island.


Bohol, is a province of the Philippines, in the country’s Central Visayas region, comprising Bohol Island and 70-plus smaller surrounding islands.


There are no international flights to going directly to Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran. However, there’s Mactan International Airport in Cebu, an island west of Bohol. You can fly to Cebu and take a fast craft to Tagbilaran port (below photo is taken at Tagbilaran port showing a fast craft going to the direction of Cebu, that land mass silhouette you can see in the horizon). There are also flights from Manila to Tagbilaran.

fast craft to cebu

Super Cat and Ocean Jet are two fast crafts servicing between Cebu and Tagbilaran and the ferry ride lasts for only two hours, one way. We used Trans Asia Shipping Lines from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao island to Tagbilaran. The ship left at 7 pm from Cagayan de Oro and arrived at 4 am the next day in Tagbilaran.

ferry from Tagbilaran to Cagayan

We could have opted to take a plane to Cebu and then transfer to a fast craft to Tagbilaran but it was too much of a hassle since the airport is far from where we live. Plus, I kind of missed taking an overnight ferry trip…

Click here for more information regarding ferry services, schedules and ticketing outlets.

inside the ferry

There are two basic classes in Philippines’ inter-island ferries. There’s economy class which is an open air deck (very hot and humid before the ship departs!) and then there’s the “Tourist” class, an air-conditioned section which is cleaner and more comfortable. However, if you’re a bit claustrophobic, you might feel a little uncomfortable, especially when the weather is not too good.

pristine in the ferry

The kids took their very first long distance ferry ride and were amazing. Pristine didn’t say anything bad about it (except that, she didn’t like the creepy crawlies that occasionally appear LOL). Benjamin slept from around 9 pm to the time we arrived at Tagbilaran port at dawn the next day.

Though the weather was good when we left Cagayan de Oro City and our journey was uneventful like the ferry was cruising through butter (that smooth), our trip going back home was the opposite. Monsoon season made its presence felt and wanted to cap our perfect vacation with a little slap of tropical country reality. Four hours after leaving Tagbilaran port, when we were midway between Bohol and Mindanao island, I was awakened with big waves slapping the left side of the ship and the ship would shake. It was cloudy outside.The rocking motion made me feel nauseous lying down.

TIP: If you’re travelling during the rainy season/monsoon, take an anti-nausea drug before your voyage. In the Philippines, the most popular brand is Bonamine (also available for kids in chewable form) and available over the counter.


travel village tours

The resort where we will be staying in Panglao, The Bellevue Bohol Resort had arranged someone to pick us from Tagbilaran port which we really appreciated since we arrived before sunrise. Most resorts and hotels in Bohol will have pick up services available so be sure to arrange that before your arrival. Otherwise, there are private pick up services just outside the port – unfortunately I cannot vouch for the safety of these services. If you don’t know anyone from Bohol, friends or family to pick you up at the port, you can contact the Bohol Tourism office through their website or email them at for viable options. I am sure they can recommend a pick up service that’s legit and safe.

If you want to take a tour on Panglao island or the Bohol countryside tour (eco tourism tours also available), there are several travel tours and companies you can find when you do a search online. However, I wanted to book a tour company that’s trusted and with a good reputation – we used Travel Village and Tours, as recommended by the Bohol Tourism office. (More about them in the next post about our Bohol Countryside Tour).

Pristine and Benjamin in pedicab in Bohol

If you are on a budget, you can also go short distances around Bohol aboard these pedicabs – a small carriage that could carry two passengers in the sidecar and one behind the driver. There’s no air conditioning system, you travel al fresco. There are no meters in these vehicles, you negotiate with the driver, explaining your journey and agree on a price.

We used this a couple of times, to the delight of the kids (although Benjamin isn’t showing his joy much in this photo…he is just camera shy!).


In one short sentence: The vastness of nature.

chocolate hills

man made forest

Loboc river

From shades of green, to shades of blue real quick.

coconut palm

beach of Bohol 1


Bohol is also home to the Philippine Tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primate. The Philippine tarsier, as its name suggests, is endemic to the Philippine archipelago. This nocturnal, shy and solitary animal is considered endangered.

tarsier sanctuary

According to our guide who is a native Boholanon (people born and raised in Bohol), there are absolutely no factories in the entire island of Bohol. The quality of air can attest to that!

Aside from pristine beaches, blue skies, rich flora and fauna, Bohol is also home to some of the country’s oldest churches, falls and underground caves.


Bohol has a large number of hotels, resorts, and other facilities for tourists. Most of these are concentrated in Tagbilaran and around Alona Beach, with a few more scattered around the island. Travelers and tourists stay at more affordable hotels in Tagbilaran if they want to focus on the countryside tour of the main island rather than spend time at pricier resorts in Panglao island. (Panglao island tour and spending time at a public beach in Panglao can be easily included in your itinerary even if you stay at a hotel in Tagbilaran City.)

bellevue bohol resort 2

We stayed first at The Bellevue Bohol Resort in Panglao island to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary together with my father’s 67th birthday. The resort is located on the other side of the more popular section of the island’s Alona beach stretch which meant it was more quiet, clean and unspoiled!

There infinity pool facing the open sea is something out of a vacationer’s dream.

bellevue bohol resort infinity pool

I’ll be writing a very detailed review of our unforgettable stay soon!

After spending two glorious days at the resort in Panglao, we moved to Tagbilaran City and stayed at a new-ish boutique hotel called 717 Cesar Place, near the city center. The hotel is basic, with clean rooms and there’s a restaurant that wasn’t too expensive and served well. Access to the city center is easy as it is located in the main road.

Booking your Bohol accommodations through the above affiliate links will cost you nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!


resort life

Bohol is just one of the many, many paradise islands in the Philippines. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have heard of Boracay or Palawan and Cebu but Bohol (along with Camiguin which we visited last year) deserves appreciation and recognition, too. If you’re a nature lover, you will absolutely love it and if you live in the desert (hello, Dubai friends!), why don’t you go and inhale some unadulterated air and marvel at the vast green spaces in Bohol?

Beach time during Ramadan in Dubai

beach 1

Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar, started last June 6 and with it, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for the next 30 days. During this period of fasting and prayer, followers of Islam will abstain from eating and drinking until they break their fast each evening after the sun sets.

This is our 10th Ramadan in the UAE.

Wait, let me think about that for a while. TENTH Ramadan in the UAE. Didn’t we plan to be here for “only a couple of years”? But just like thousands of expats who came to Dubai with that in mind, we are still here and we love the holy month of Ramadan. Why?

What does Ramadan mean to non-Muslims in a Muslim country like the UAE? Most, if not all companies in the UAE have shortened working hours to all, Muslims and non-Muslim employees. At my work place, we get to work for only 6 hours instead of 8. I work from 8 am to 2 pm only, for the whole month!

Ah, how I wish it was like this for the whole year. And I wish we lived near the beach.

p and b at the beach 1

Ramadan is that time when I am so happy to be able to go home earlier than usual to be with my kids. We take afternoon naps or do things we can’t usually do because I have very limited time with them after my usual 6 pm work end (I get home around 7 pm then dinner, home work check and bedtime at 8:30 or 9 pm max).

There’s a little disadvantage of the shortened work times though, it means work load piles up quickly – so it meant I had to work on a weekend for half day last week to cope up. Because I am currently single parenting, it made me doubly guilty so to make up to them, I drove them to the beach later that day.

p and b at the beach 2

I thought it was already impossible to linger at the beach at this time of the year with summer in full swing. But during the golden hour, the beach was perfect. The weather was warm but not too hot as I thought it would be, the water was not like a hot tub. It was really just as I like it – a little warm.

sunset 1

And indeed, golden.

I wish we lived near this (it’s around 30 minutes away by car) so I could take them every day from late afternoon till sunset. It was a bit tough since I can’t drink water in public because it’s Ramadan (kids are excused). But our beach trip was so worth it. The kids loved it so much and it was relaxing for me as well. The extra hours I have after work during Ramadan is truly blissful.

On the way home, Pristine said “sorry mom, the car is full of sand now.” I told her, I don’t care as long as there are happy kids in it.

Are you working in Dubai? What do you do during your extra hours after work during Ramadan?

I survived driving to Kite beach

beach day

Last weekend, I woke up and decided I would take the kids to the beach, never mind I’d be driving for 30 minutes to get there. If you know me, you know how I feel about driving, especially with routes I am not familiar with or have not driven to at all.

I’m happy to say that yes, we have arrived safely and in one piece at Kite Beach. I was so exhausted but after seeing Benjamin’s reaction when he stepped on the shore? Every drop of sweat on my palms and other body parts too scandalous to mention was worth it. Even Pristine was so happy never mind she couldn’t swim as the water was still too cold at this time of the year.

P in beach 1

Why was I driving when I dread driving? Well, the husband is away and I’ve been single parenting for the 2nd week now. This is actually nothing new because even when he is here, I am single parenting most of the time anyway. So when he is gone, I say to myself “Heck, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference?”

But alas, it’s only when the other spouse is away that we realize, it isn’t the same after all. This family thing is not a one man or one woman show, especially when there are children involved. We are a team and it’s not the same if one team member is not around. It’s funny how different it is when you’re married and have kids than when say, compared to when you were just dating. The I-miss-you-how-am-I-going-to-cope-up-without-you moments have been replaced by I-can-handle-this, I-should-handle-this! mentality. 

I am proud to say I can manage most things alone. I can run the house alone. But then, there are times when I wish my spouse was there to fill in the gap. Like driving, for one (and wirings gone wonky around the house…).

Though I was driving every day while we were living in Japan before our move to Dubai, driving in Dubai is a whole different ball game for me. I am terrified of driving to places I am not familiar with. Hello big burly speeding cars, impolite drivers and 7 lane highways!

(You have no idea how grateful I am for the Metro!).

Ben at the beach 1

p and b at the beach 1

The kids and I had so much fun at the beach where we stayed till around 1 pm. What a liberating feeling to have no restrictions on time. 


I didn’t realize there was a T Swift song playing in the background when I took this video… A video posted by Grace | Sandier Pastures (@sandierpastures) on


Don’t you just love days where you don’t care about what time it is?

I wish I could do this more often so I can conquer my fear of driving especially if the kids are in the car with me. But yesterday, I managed to get to Kite Beach (and back home) with Google maps, pure guts and sweaty hands.

Several articles on the internet point that frequent travel of one spouse have negative effects on the family. Maybe. But I think there’s also a positive side. The spouse who is left behind is forced to develop themselves to become a more mature, more courageous parent and individual.

I certainly feel braver now.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

How do you spend the day in paradise?

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

What did you do with the long Eid Al Adha weekend? I’ve been cleaning the house and the files on my PC (and my phone). I actually spend more time in the digital cleanup part, because I tend to look at photos and get stuck there. I’m actually looking at old photos again now.

So, the holidays. I am stuck looking at the photos of our previous holiday, the one just this summer. We go back to the Maldives. To the topic of The Maldives, that is, because we are not going back there. Yet. Not now. Though I wish to!

We spent five glorious days at The Sun Siyam Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort in the Maldives last July and everyday I wished I could freeze time.

So, what does a typical day in paradise look, you may wonder.

First, we wake up from this bed. We stayed in a beach villa that opens up to the private pool and to the beach.

Deluxe Beach Villa With Pool-1

Can you imagine how difficult it is to wake up from this heavenly bed? You’d think I was struggling (like all normal people do when given a bed as awesome as this but me and my stubborn body clock that never sleep beyond 7 in the morning…I get up alone and walk outside to the beach while the husband and the kids are still in la-la-land.

There’s no one there so I have this little piece of paradise all to myself.

Deluxe Beach Villa With Pool-2

There are times when I wake up so much earlier, sit by the beach and feel like I own this sunrise.


When they all wake up around 9 am, we do our quick morning rituals, getting dressed, take a shower. The shower is at the back of the villa and I must admit, I have become addicted to the open air shower. Imagine the feel of cool water while your skin bathes in warm sunshine. How I wish to be able to do this every single day of my life.

(This beach villa is enclosed as to provide utmost privacy so no worries.)

Deluxe Beach Villa With Pool-8

Open air shower all year through. Think about that. Gotta love tropical life!

maldives going to breakfast

We walk to Iru restaurant where breakfast awaits. There are buggies (small vehicle like golf carts) operating around the resort but we always preferred to walk – because the kids don’t do that a lot in Dubai!

Iru Restaurant is not just about great food and wide variety of choices.

iru restaurant

After breakfast, we would take a stroll around the island (because we are still too full to swim!)

stroll after breakfast

Benjamin loved to play in the sand.

playing in the sand

There’s big chess board on the island. I let them break their heads while I lie down in the hammock…


Sometimes, we would go to the docking decks where small ships dock to pick up the trash, every single day. We’ve always wondered how they keep the island resort so clean (almost no flies!) – it’s because they don’t keep trash on the island. The trash is being collected and transported to a designated place (in another island) every day.

morning dock

We watch the boats come and go from this hammock by the beach. If there’s one thing I terribly miss about The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, it’s the cool, crisp, clean sea breeze. It’s the most soothing feeling in the world.

hammock 2

Then we go back to the villa and either swim in the beach or in the pool.

swimming time

The we have lunch at our perfect spot. This is near the water shed, beside Bamboo restaurant. There is WiFi in this location so people tend to flock. However, we were always lucky to have this table to ourselves every day.


After lunch, we walk around a bit more, or either take the kids to the kid’s club and then go back to the villa to take a nap. When we wake up at around 4 pm, we take a stroll again and take photos and more photos.

take photos around the island

Because time flies doubly faster when you’re having fun (and because that’s how Murphy’s Law works – time flies faster when you pray it would not end). Sunset comes.


And dinner time.

dinner at sunrise

Playing in the sand until the sun sets. The hours in the day never seem to be enough.


We could not forget our short but very memorable time in paradise. The kids still remember it and ask to see the set of photos again and again. Still debating whether traveling is worth it with smaller/younger children (in our case, our son Benjamin was 2 years and 9 months when we traveled to the Maldives from Dubai)? Read my post why I think traveling with smaller/younger kids is not a waste.

activities in the island

So that’s how, more or less, how we spent our time in paradise. We also went for a snorkeling trip during our stay. But I was too much of a scaredy cat to even tell an interesting tale to share. Maybe next time!

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Resort has won two categories at the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony 2014: Indian Ocean’s Leading Family Resort and the Maldives’ Leading Spa Resort. It’s easy to know why they could have won the “leading family resort” category – this resort is not just for honeymooning couples, we know from first hand experience that they’re also great for kids!

* Photos without watermark are provided by Sun Siyam Iru Fushi.

what to pack to Maldives

What to pack? Maldives edition

what to pack to Maldives

I must admit, in my years of travel, I’ve never been so nervous about packing than when the time we were headed to the Maldives.


Because there is nothing in the island except for the resort – meaning, there are no grocery stores, malls or convenient stores or pharmacies (although there is an on-island clinic). If you need something, you may need to buy it within the resort (if it is even available) and they’re expensive.

Top photo credit

With two kids in tow, I know I needed to pack perfectly (almost). Emergency medicines (especially allergy meds), enough clothes, diapers and other kid requirements.

Here’s what we packed on our trip to the island:

Luggage and bags

If you are having seaplane transfers from the international airport in Male to your resort, bear in mind the baggage allowance is not much so pack LIGHT.

Also, I would highly recommend to use waterproof luggage and bags in case it rains when you arrive. Some speed boats place your bags in the open and some seaplane landing boards are out in the open sea.

Clothing/shoes/weather gear

Clothing – It’s a tropical country (warm) so clothing should all be light weight, preferably cotton or linen. Sundresses, t-shirts, shorts and tank tops. No need for socks, denims and jacket no matter which time of the year you’ll visit.

clothing 2

Ladies, remember to take light weight cardigans or shawl/sarong to cover your arms if you visit any local inhabited islands as Maldives is a Muslim country and arms and legs should be covered. Maldives is a Muslim country and locals are pretty conservative with regards to clothing – however, one can wear practically anything at the resorts.

What to bring to Maldives

I found that the most comfortable clothes I’ve worn during our stay in the island is a cami tank top and shorts. The kids wore cotton clothes – sundresses for Pristine and Carter’s brand clothes for Benjamin. (I’m no brand fanatic but I stick to Carter’s for his clothes, best bang for the buck in terms of quality and comfort. Plus, no annoying, itchy tags at the back!)

A simple summer dress is convenient at night and at the restaurants.

A pair of flip-flops or sandals are all you’ll need for your feet. Most of the time you’ll be barefoot anyway! I wish we brought aqua shoes though as the broken corals in the water were sharp.

P flip flops

Swim wear – you will spend a lot of time in the water and the sun is always out in the Maldives. We used UV Skinz protective clothing so we didn’t have to slather ourselves with sunscreen lotion, miss spots and burn crisp. Wearing sun protective swimwear like this, we know we are doing our part in reducing water pollution.

Pristine in UV Skinz

If you have a baby or a toddler, I would highly recommend to bring your own life vest. We stayed in a beach villa with a pool and Benjamin wanted to swim everyday so I was really glad we brought it with us on this travel. Otherwise, maybe you could rent on some resorts or buy (and surely, it won’t be cheap!)

Ben in life vest

Sunglasses – normal ones are better than nothing but polarized ones are the best since it makes you see clearer through the glare of white sand and water.

Snorkeling/diving gearThe Sun Siyam Irufushi resort where we stayed can lend equipment until you checkout for free but if you prefer your own, then bring those.


  • Travel adaptor
  • Phone chargers
  • small denomination US dollars for tipping
  • reading materials

Photo equipment

Waterproof camera or in my case, I brought the Catalyst waterproof iPhone case. Most of your Maldives holiday activities will be in, near, or under the water so having a camera that can function underwater is a must!

catalyst case

Toiletries/Medical kit

  • Paracetamol, for adults and for kids
  • insect repellent
  • insect bite liniment
  • diaper rash cream
  • thermometer
  • band aids
  • flu meds
  • after sun lotion
  • anti histamines
  • Motion sickness tablets (I wish I took this before I boarded the seaplane!)

And this >>> Lots of snack items and juice boxes for the kids!


  • Alcohol – Maldives is a muslim country and you are not allowed to take in alcohol so go easy on the duty free shopping on your way to Maldives. But even though you are not allowed to take it into the country,the resorts and hotels serve them like any other place.
  • Food products with pork in them
  • Pornographic materials
  • Weapons, firearms and ammunition
  • Spear guns
  • Idols for worship

I think that’s about it. If you’ve been to the Maldives or any beach destination (with or without kids), do you have any important item to add? Let me know in the comments!

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

Precious time in paradise

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

As working parents, my husband and I juggle too many things at the same time so once a year, we hit that point where we tell ourselves we need to get off the rat wheel. We need time to decompress. With the kids.

We decided not to travel far this time – a 12 hour flight to Tokyo was off the cards. We packed our bags and left for Maldives and then Sri Lanka last month. Sri Lanka because I’ve always wanted to see it (and it’s only 4 hours away from Dubai) and let the children wander in the wide green spaces and see elephants and Maldives because it’s a short flight from Colombo.

I loved everything about our time in the Maldives – the people, the pace, the sound and smell of the sea, the perfect climate, the breeze that I so wanted to bottle up and bring back to Dubai…the kids loved Maldives, too.

alone time at sunset grace

I enjoyed every bit of my time at The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives. As an introvert, I appreciate some time alone and it’s amazing how you can think of a thousand and one thoughts at the same time when you find yourself in a serene environment such as this. The resort where we stayed, located far north of the island country was a world away from it all. It gave me the slower, quiet life pace I longed for.

It’s surreal to think how the other part of the world is in chaos, from trivial things such as traffic in the streets of Dubai to bombings in Gaza while there I was, so much at peace and looking at the serene sea and sunset in the horizon.

It’s hard to imagine this is the same world.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

We also learned a lot during this trip, like how important it is to take it slow and to just focus on the basics – that the best thing we can give to our children (and to each other) is time and undivided attention.

Sure it doesn’t have to be in Maldives but surely, spending time at one of the world’s most beautiful, unspoiled paradise doesn’t hurt, yes?

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

We both decided that he can work as hard as he needs to, and I won’t complain about the long hours away from us as long as we go out as a family for a month, once a year, wherever it is.

(Maldives was magnificent. The only problem though is that, you won’t ever want to leave.)

No work related phone calls, no conversations about work. Just him and me as full time parents to the kids. And to make time to reset and reconnect our relationship as a couple.

grace and kids in beach side hammock

Right now, we’re back to Dubai and I dread the heat outside. I dread the fact that we cannot just go out and walk outside (for the next couple of months at least) or enjoy the beach because it is too hot. The kids are back, cooped in the four corners of the house again.

grace in water villa dock

I can still remember the feeling of the warm sun touching my skin. Most of all, I remember the moments we spent as a family – our walks on the beach, baths in open air Maldivian style shower, and the nights we spent outside stargazing at the pitch black sky when the stars looked like bright diamonds.

deluxe beach villa

Our lovely experience in paradise was short but we brought home memories enough to last a lifetime. I felt reborn and rejuvenated. It will be another 12 months or so before our next holiday but I am already excited.

UV Skinz

Sun protection in paradise with UV Skinz

UV Skinz

We traveled to the Maldives, the land of sun, sand and sea and never consumed a tub of sunscreen lotion. We were out in the beach every single day.

How is that possible?

The whole family had amazing skin protection thanks to UV Skinz, sun protective clothes that are stylish and carry a UPF rating of 50+, which blocks out over 98% of the sun?s harmful rays, protecting delicate skin from damaging sunburns. Sunscreen isn’?t always enough and is often not used correctly. Some people have skin allergies or sensitivities to chemicals that sunscreens can contain. UV Skinz are sun shirts that are not made with any chemicals or lotions.

snorkeling trip

During our snorkeling trip, I wore the pink and white long sleeve, my husband in navy long sleeve and Benjamin (carried by our Maldivian guide in black) wore long sleeve in navy/ocean blue.

While I don’t burn easily, both my kids are like their dad, fair skinned and sensitive to long exposure to the sun. I didn’t want to spend our vacation with two sunburned kids (it can be very itchy and can keep them awake at night!) but at the same time, didn’t want to restrict sun play. After all, this is the Maldives!

UV Skinz made it possible for all of us to enjoy the beach without applying or reapplying sunscreen. You’ll still need to use sunscreen on face, neck, legs, etc… but it’s so much easier and more convenient when you only have to worry about the minor parts! I find that it’s the kids’ backs, arms and shoulders that gets hardest hit by sunburn.


UV Skinz is founded by Rhonda Sparks, who lost her husband to skin cancer when he was only 32 years old. She decided that her life’s mission would be to raise awareness about the disease anyway she could. It’s the company’s passion ensuring that you make the best investment in the highest protection rated, most comfortable, fun and fashionable outdoor and swimwear products that will maximize your fun in the sun.

uvskinz pristine

Pristine is wearing long sleeve skinz in pink tie dye. I thought this is really cute.

I personally like that the fabric is made of high quality, not those very thin pieces of cloth. The colors are bright and do not bleed when washed and they are really super soft that sometimes, my daughter would sleep wearing it! (She is always beach ready when she wakes up…)

One more thing I love about UV Skinz is that it dries up really fast! We were swimming every single day while there and we would hang it at night to find it dry in the morning.

I highly recommend this brand for the whole family! Unfortunately, this is not available in any stores in Dubai but you can order online at

I received products to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are mine.You can connect with UV Skinz on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram to find out about their latest offers and promotions.