Why we left Dubai


I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized for the lack of updates on this blog so I’m not going to do it now because I can’t promise to be consistent in writing with all the things currently going on in my life. But if you are reading this, thank you for still being here.

If you have followed me on social media, you may have come across posts where I mentioned that we have left Dubai, our home for the past 10 years and 11 months. To many, it was a sudden move, a surprising decision even, especially when I said we’re moving back to Japan – it’s shocking to some people who has heard me say I will try hard not to live in Japan again, after we left in 2007. (But that is another blog post to write)

I struggled for the time to be able to sit down to write this post and even thought of just closing down this blog and quit writing. But who am I kidding? I don’t know if I’ll ever lose my love for writing. Sentences have already formed n my head even before our flight out of Dubai took off and I couldn’t wait to be able to open my laptop and write away these thoughts.

Also, when you have followers on social media and readers on your blog, you feel some kind of social responsibility to be transparent, to share the goings on in your life, especially they have followed you from the start. And I really wanted to write this post to collectively tell our story for those reading this and for myself, as a reminder years from now why we made this big move.

There is not one single reason why we left Dubai. It is a mix of so many reasons that snowballed into the major but necessary decision to pack up and leave.

Reason #1: my work

“Life’s too short to do the things you don’t love doing.”

Somehow, this quote had been crossing my mind so often I wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t always like that. I am grateful to be given the chance to work in Dubai in my previous company with so many wonderful people who became not just my work colleagues, but my friends. My day job allowed me and my family to live in Dubai comfortably and indulge in life’s little pleasures like traveling outside of the UAE.

However, after many years, the stuff I do for a living has brought more stress than happiness no matter how I tell myself ,”get over it, this too shall pass”. Day in, day out, getting on the train, running to catch the time, sweating profusely during the grueling hot months (more than half of the year?!), sitting down from 8 am to 6 pm on mechanical mode going through papers and papers, putting in over time some of the time but feeling unappreciated, etc. And then repeat again till the last work day of the week. Lately, the theme of my life had been #WaitingForWeekends.

When you reach the point where you dread when the weekend ends and the work week begins, you know life has become stressful and unhealthy. When sometimes you find yourself half-assing your work, unconsciously, you know you need to put an end to it.

I know that sounds like a selfish thing. And there are bills to pay. Believe me, I have battled voices in my head saying, “you should be grateful you have a job!” or “the pay is good, the work is not difficult, why leave?” or “why don’t you just get up, show up, sit for 8 hours and wait for the paycheck?” and then on the other side, so many voices of reasons that would sum up:

“Are you sure you want to do the same thing everyday for the next ten years?”

And the answer to that was NO.

I guess when you work in a place that long, (10 years and 11 months for me in the same company), you would want some sort of change. I’ve asked for it but that change didn’t come and I didn’t see it coming at all. Doing something over and over again that long is not sustainable, at least for me. I feel my feelings weren’t normal because in my previous company, people have worked for 10, 20 or even 30 years. No one ever leaves (almost) that people didn’t believe I resigned and started to speculate and spread rumors that I was terminated. When I said I submitted my resignation paper last November 2017, there wasn’t a single soul who didn’t think I was joking. “Why would you?”

There’s also the lingering matter of my age. I’m 41 and it came to the critical point where IF I have to change jobs, I have to quit the current one NOW otherwise stay there till I retire. There was no change in the horizon with the current one and no, I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing day in and day out for the next 3,650 days of my life.

“So if you didn’t like your job, why didn’t you apply for other jobs, in Dubai?”

We move on to reason #2.

Reason #2: the kids

playing in the snow

There are several reasons worthy enough of a separate blog post that could be controversial to other families raising their kids in Dubai. Dubai is still a great place for families for many, however, PERSONALLY, I feel it wasn’t the best place for us anymore. The lifestyle didn’t fit what we wanted for our family.

I have a child who is transitioning into adulthood. She is 14, and while very open minded and sensible, I feel that living in Dubai as she transitions into this very important phase in life will not ready her or arm her with important life skills she needs and resilience when life is not so convenient and comfortable anymore in the outside world.

The other child is six years old and always happier when taken outdoors, not just for a period of time (cooler months in Dubai) but everyday.

Reason #3: the husband’s job instability

Background: we moved to Dubai because of my work; he was the trailing spouse.

To his credit, he really tried. He has come a long way from someone who didn’t know how to speak or write proper English sentences to someone who can negotiate business affairs using a language foreign to him. He is Japanese and only speaks Japanese language with me from the start. And in Japan where we previously lived, there is no need to use English.

In the past years when his job doesn’t work out due to various unfortunate reasons like salary was too low to compensate for the long hours, company downsizing, etc, he managed to get another and then another. He even worked in Saudi Arabia for a year while the kids and I remained in Dubai in 2016.

We decided, ENOUGH.

Now that we are in Japan, he can find something that would suit him better here. It’s his home country after all and as for me – I can manage to fit in, as I did for 10 years I was here before moving to Dubai. I can find something here should I decide to work (I have worked here for 5 years after graduation before).

Reason #4: there’s no forever in Dubai

Dubai is a transient place. More than 80% of the population are expats from 200 different countries…who will ultimately leave one day, it’s just a question of WHEN. It’s actually scary when you really think about it.

Why? The UAE doesn’t offer permanent residency – visas are tied with your job that if you lose it, you only have 30 days to either find a new one or exit the country, no citizenship offered as well.

It’s a temporary place where people come to earn and/or save.

I liken living in Dubai as part of the story of the Japanese folk tale of Urashima Taro – a fisherman who gets to visit a beautiful kingdom under the sea as a reward for rescuing a tortoise. The kingdom under the sea is like paradise and Urashima Taro lingered on, enjoying every moment, forgetting about the outside world. When he came up and went back to land, he was shocked to find out so many years have passed since the last time he was there.

Most expats in Dubai, us included, arrived thinking they’ll stay “just for a couple of years” but then the lifestyle is too comfortable, convenient and appealing, the malls so big, bright and shiny LOL, and we all end up making Dubai our semi-permanent home and before we know it, we’ve been living in this glorious city for years and decades.

And leaving gets harder and harder the longer you live in Dubai.

It’s a transient place and we’re all waiting for that “snap” that could be in the form of: you or your spouse losing your jobs and can’t find one before the 30 days grace period ends, you or your spouse’s company closes down and can’t find another company to sponsor your visa before the 30 days grace period ends, Dubai’s economy all together snaps and you become redundant or worst case scenario, war erupts in the Middle East (the UAE is peaceful right now and I think it will be for the next years…but then again, there’s no guarantee?)

So what if the “snap” happens tomorrow and we have no savings or when we’re 50? Where will we go? Will there be any companies to accept us back home or somewhere else?

We felt it is time to settle and build a permanent home.

ben walking in snow


We are all Japan passport holders, my husband is from here and we have family here (his side, our children’s grandparents who are so delighted with our move). Japan will always be that place we can base ourselves the easiest, move with least effort, financially, logistically. Here, we are eligible for social insurance and school for the kids is free.

Also, we feel it’s time for our children to get to know the culture and heritage that’s part of who they are.

Are we staying here for good? I don’t know about the “for good” part but “for now”, yes.

No matter how comfortable and almost perfect life is in Dubai, we are only there on borrowed time. With the visa, we are given the privilege to stay in Dubai/UAE. In Japan, we have the right to stay as long as we can.

One interesting thing about this move – much like when people in Dubai asked me why we left Japan, people here in Japan are asking me why we left Dubai – a seemingly modern day Utopia where everything is convenient; even the heat is a mild matter as we live in temperature controlled houses and sleep with our comforters even when it’s nearing 50C outside.

The grass is always greener on the other side, eh?


January 13th 2018 (that’s today in my time zone) would have been our 11 years anniversary in Dubai but we’re no longer there. I wanted to start the new year fresh and new so I chose to leave before 2017 ended. Honestly, I thought I’d write a really sappy post how I missed life in Dubai but not right now. I actually didn’t have time to grieve over leaving the city we called home for nearly 11 years. I was so busy with so many things like patching things at work before my exit, selling/giving away/disposing things at home and preparing to leave for the Philippines last month for my sister’s wedding. (Had several incidents even before we landed in Manila with Benjamin suddenly getting sick on the plane and we had to call emergency when we landed and then the airline losing 2 of my checked in luggage and typhoon Vinta got our flights to my hometown cancelled …who has time to be sappy about Dubai?)

And then this move to Japan.

I might eventually get nostalgic and write the sappy post someday but not today. I’m busy looking forward to the challenges we’ll all face. The kids’ attending Japanese school, me looking for a job (or deciding to stay at home!), looking for a permanent house etc.

Oh, and the harsh winter. I am more bothered of the cold, cold temp inside the house this winter to be grieving about the past.

I do have a passing thought and probably an advice to you expats thinking about leaving Dubai: don’t leave when Dubai is at its most gorgeous in the “winter” months, especially if you’re destination is the real winter world. You’ll miss and long for Dubai’s glorious sunshines in December.

Leave during the summer when you’re cursing your way out of the airport and happily looking forward to your normal world destination where you can stand outside without your arm pits transforming into waterfalls of sweat and you can breathe without being choked by 95% humidity.

Oh and one last thing keeping me from grieving?

I need a new blog name.

Splash n Party: the newest kids aqua park in town

splash 3

I’m going to make this post short – have you been to the kids aqua park in Jumeirah called Splash n Party?

I’ve heard of this place for a long time and seen pictures on social media uploaded by other bloggers but never really got to check it out with the kids because the invites were all on a week day and I have work.

We got another invite last week and luckily, the husband was off from work so I asked him if he can take the kids for Splash n Party’s Halloween Party. The mini water park looked promising so he drove the kids there and flooded my Whatsapp with photos.

Since the weather is getting really better and better, I think it’s a great place to take the kids. Our two kids had so much fun and didn’t want to go home even after almost 3 hours there. Splash n Party, located  is a little far from where we live, was definitely worth the drive.

splash collage



They were lucky to go last week too, in time for Halloween! Splash n Party threw a Halloween party with lots of folks in scary costumes!

[envira-gallery id=”78725″]

The mini water park is also available to book for birthday parties and other celebrations. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a kids birthday party here? What do you think?

splash 2

splash 1
splash 4

General information

Location: Al Safa 2, Street 8A, Villa no. 1, Jumeirah, Dubai
Admission rates: AED100 on weekdays, AED140 on weekends (other admission rates)

We were guests at Splash n Party but as always, all opinions are my own.

Tuesday’s surprise: rain, in late March!

rain 2

Photo credit The National. You can find more photos of the rain here.

After days of grey skies and wind and dust, we woke up to rain this morning. I know I heard some pitter patter at the break of dawn but didn’t realize it had been raining heavily outside. I mean, c’mon, it’s already March – though I am not complaining at all. I love the rain!

tue rain 2 umb

But I’ve lived in the UAE 11 years and never experience rain in late March. This kind of rain should’ve come in November like in 2012 where we had heavy tropical type rains sending people (including us) outside to literally dance in the rain. That’s what living in the desert do to people, it makes every drop of rain precious and a five minute rain, a carnival.

There was flooding everywhere this morning and this has to happen when my car is still at the service center. I had to wade in some floodwaters from home to the Metro station this morning and I realized, while looking around and seeing people running that really, not many people own an umbrella in Dubai. Some were just winging it with hoodies, shawls, some plastic material and for some, even toy umbrella, probably borrowed from their little daughters.


According to local newspaper, Gulf News,

After two days of unstable weather, UAE’s skies will stabilise on Wednesday giving way to partly cloudy to cloudy weather but only for a day. Forecasters expect another round of weather instability beginning Thursday.

I think I won’t mind a rainy weekend. Now to find a good book to read.

Ski Dubai snow penguins turns 5!

ski dubai 1

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must know by now that there’s a ski resort inside a mall in Dubai. Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort which opened in 2005. This massive facility has 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area where you can ski (of course) and do lots of fun in the snow. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

I must admit, I dread the idea of going inside Ski Dubai. After having experienced 10 winters in Japan complete with sub zero temperatures and snow while living in the mountainous region of Nagano prefecture, I am done with the cold.

However, snow will always be something that gets the kids happy and excited.

snow bunnies 1
ski dubai 2

So, did you also know that aside from snow inside Ski Dubai, there are also…PENGUINS? Like, real ones?  Snow + PENGUINS, oh yay!! That got me excited as well.

Ski Dubai offers Penguin Encounters with the Ski Dubai penguins – currently there are 28 resident penguins. At the start there were only 20 of them. The King and Gentoo Penguins at Ski Dubai reside in the most sophisticated habitat in the UAE. The enclosure consists of several areas including a private pool, a top deck area with rocks, and a private holding area.

My daughter Pristine visited the penguins at Ski Dubai five years ago when they were new so she’s so delighted to be able to see them again, and this time, with her little brother Benjamin! Our tour started  as we made our way through a dark tunnel, complete with ice on the wall and snow under our feet. Ah, that familiar crunchy sound of fresh snow!

We were told that Ski Dubai is the only place in the world where the public are allowed to touch penguins and were given instructions on how to hug them (always from behind, to prevent a scratch from a sharp beak). Benjamin was hesitant at first but that’s understandable, if I were a five year old, I would probably freak out too seeing Happy Feet characters alive and moving right in front of my eyes!

Then we were led into the second enclosure to meet a King Penguin; the second largest breed of penguin in the world and pretty impressive with his bright yellow feathers. This was the bird we would be allowed to touch.

penguin encounter 1

penguins 1
penguins 3

penguin encounter 2

Normally, private photography is not allowed on penguin encounter sessions but for this event, they let us in with our phones and a staff helped take our photos.

snow bunnies 2 We learned a lot on this penguin encounter session. The guide/trainer provided simple explanation and wonderful lessons for all age groups to help understand these birds, their habits, behavior, etc.

While I am not a fan of animals in captivity, I am a bit relieved to learn that there are strict rules in place for the penguin’s welfare and they are rotated so as not to be overwhelmed. Also, Ski Dubai regularly directs funds back into penguin conservation and research projects through the non-profit charity Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute.

After the penguin encounter, the kids played a bit in the snow. It was Benjamin’s first time to see a snow, however unreal. We’ll take it, for now. We had lots of fun at the snow park but after an hour or so, it was time to head outside. We can’t feel our fingers anymore!


Please bring your own insulated gloves, hat and warm underwear as you cannot rent them there, only ski suits for the kids and long down jacket for adults. I had to sacrifice looking ridiculous with a kiddie beanie with a red braid just to warm my frozen ears!

We were guests at Ski Dubai for the penguin’s 5th birthday bash. As usual, all opinions are my own.

Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai creek harbour header image 2

Last weekend, the kids and I went to “Rise”, a new outdoor entertainment on the Dubai Creek Promenade and could well be the coolest place to be in Dubai. Rise is open from now and every weekend from 2pm.

Think of a place with lots of bean bags and sofas to just sit back, lounge and while the time away gazing at the unbeatable views of the creek and the beautiful Dubai skyline against the afternoon sunset.

Rise DCH

Salt Food Truck and Vida Hotel food trucks were among the foodie providers, as well as demonstrations from scientific cooking bods The Inventing Room. A roaming robot, virtual reality installations, arty water and building projections, audio-visual performances and some neat little Lego-style electronic toys for kids and not to mention, there are play areas for the little ones to enjoy made our visit so worth it. Dubai creek harbour sunset 1

Dubai Creek Harbour is a new community to be developed by Emaar, the same company that developed Downtown Dubai, the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, the world’s biggest mall Dubai Mall and world’s largest fountain, the Dubai Fountain.

I remember when we arrived in 2007 and Burj Khalifa was just half complete and the whole area of the Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai was still so dusty from all the construction. We visited the Emaar sales center at Downtown, saw the diorama and model houses of the future residential buildings and thought…it looks so ambitious, will these ever become a reality?

But alas, Dubai is a city that knows not the word impossible and the ambitious project of Downtown Dubai, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa came to be.

And now, when I was standing at the promenade near the Dubai Creek Harbour Sales Center, I could see trucks and cranes working 24/7. Each roaring sound of the trucks is a sign towards all of these becoming a reality.

The promenade – I’m not sure if this is just temporary, is made just to give visitors a taste of what it will be like to be here, to see the sweeping views of Dubai’s iconic skyline at the distance and to marvel at the warm glow of the sunset amidst the tranquility of the creek.

sunset collage

Dubai Creek Harbour as a project will stretch around 6km – twice the size of Downtown Dubai – and will be a city unto itself.

The development include nine different districts, such as The Island District, Creekside 18, Harbour Views, The Canal District and The Sanctuary District. Situated adjacent to the Ras Al Khor Natural Wildlife Sanctuary, it will boast a world class yacht club, marina and harbour, 22 hotels, 6.79 million square metres of residential space and almost twice that in retail.

A very prestigious project is in the works too, a structure ‘just a notch’ taller than Burj Khalifa – Santiago Calatrava’s lily-bud inspired The Tower is an iconic monument that will be the centerpiece of the entire development, setting a new benchmark for engineering around the world.

When completed, Dubai Creek Harbour area is supposed to look like this:

dch completed

More photos of The Tower here.

The Dubai Creek Harbour promenade is open from now and every weekends only Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Entry and parking is free. For more information about the upcoming events, please check out www.risedch.com.

10 Reasons why we love living in the UAE


Photo credit

In celebration of the UAE’s 45th National Day, here’s recalling reasons why we love living here. I was 30 when we moved here and now that I just turned 40, it meant we’ve been in this country for a DECADE. Please give me a moment to digest that. OMG, a decade.

I lived for a decade + a few months in Japan and living in the UAE will top that, soon.

Though I sometimes question why we’re still here, here are a few things why we choose to stay, “another year more”.

1. Security

Despite the stereotyped image of the Middle East, the UAE tops list of the world’s safest countries. I felt safe when I was living in Japan but I feel safer in Dubai – for one, alcohol is not readily available in the grocery or convenient stores (only in duty free shops at the airport or designated stores in the city and it requires a license to purchase) and drinking and caught being drunk in public entails tough fine and imprisonment means there are virtually no drunk people in the roads you’ll meet at night.

Alcohol is available in licensed restaurants and hotels and any adult can order.

Expats who dominate Dubai’s population at 80% compared to the locals come here to work and since punishment for crime is tough and almost always, instant deportation, crime is very low.

Important mention: the UAE is a gun-less society. Gun ownership is a touchy subject in many parts of the world (looking at you, US of A!) but there are actually countries who impose total gun ban or ownership with tough restrictions on citizens and work just fine, like the UAE or Japan, touted: A Land Without Guns.

Personally, I could never live in a place where practically anyone can get their hands on a gun.

(I have no time to argue so if you are pro-gun, you can keep your opinion to yourself because your opinion would not sway mine.)

2. Better work-life balance


One of the reasons why we left Japan and never looked back is the better work-life balance in the UAE. When we, working parents have energy to actually take out the kids and enjoy moments together because we are not too fatigued from a week’s work!

Japan is a work-centred society which centers on, what else but work. Both our working hours at the office were long and the seemingly normal overtime culture was making us miserable, tired and depressed. Many people question our choice of remaining in the UAE all these years with, “Japan is so nice, why don’t you live there?” side comments. Living in Japan with both of us working and with a small child, having no help from family or otherwise wasn’t easy and it was definitely not for us – had we not moved out, it was either I quit working (which wasn’t possible financially at that time) or I quit the marriage. That tough.

(I am glad that Japan for us is just a place we go to if we like to, stay long enough to enjoy it and leave before we dislike it again.)

Also, the chance to hire a live in house help in the UAE  greatly contributes to better work-life balance for working mothers/families in general here. I don’t know how I’d live without our trusted house help, especially I am single parenting nowadays, most times of the year.

3. Blue skies 330 days of the year, on the average


It only rains in the winter months, mostly between December to February. On other days, we have unbroken blue skies and bright sun. It will (almost) never rain on your parade.

4. The amazingly great beaches


So many tourists come here for the beaches and we live just a few minutes from it! When we were new here, you wouldn’t find us home on the weekends, we were always at the beach!

5. The cool, not cold winter


No need for thick jackets. We can get away with a light cardigan during day time. No numb ears! Winter is the time to actually go out and enjoy outdoors! Dubai winter is park time.

And no need to scrape off ice from your car in winter!

6. Dubai is very convenient for travel

Dubai is a wonderful gateway to the world.

A flight time of five hours and under will take you to must see places in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and many more! You take your pick.


Add a couple of hours and you’ll be in beautiful Europe.

With a homegrown budget airline (Fly Dubai) that often goes on sale with their flights, long weekends is always a chance to visit a new destination. Last year, I managed to squeeze in a visit to Austria (flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes) during the Eid Al Adha holidays (+ a couple of days leave from work) and in December, my daughter and I had our first Christmas market experience in Prague around UAE National Day holiday.

7. The multi-lingual environment

More than 80% of Dubai’s population is composed of expats from more than 200 countries. It is interesting to see so many people speak different languages. The kids are learning French and Arabic in school. I love it when I hear them speak or read something that I do not understand.

8. Shopping malls and restaurants and food from all over the world

I know we complain of another mall being built, yada, yada, yada but admit it, we are lucky to have such places for entertainment, especially during the hot summer months! Our lives here are never boring because of the malls. We are spoilt for choice. The groceries at the malls offer almost everything from Japanese food to hundreds of spices. In one shopping mall, you could even ski.

The food scene – With expats comprising most of the population, Dubai is a gastronomic adventure! From budget to fancy, from local shawarmas to authentic Indian staples to Spanish paellas and Peruvian ceviches, everything is in Dubai.

9. Leader with a vision


The UAE is blessed with leaders who believe that ‘anything is possible’ – thanks to leaders with visions of progress, this country only moves forward. There are several projects not just for tourism (we should check out the newly opened Dubai Canal) but to make lives of people, locals and expats alike become better and better: construction of new highways to ease traffic, more green spaces for families.

10. Tax-free salary

…that enables us to save while we live and work here.


Life in the UAE is not perfect, but as does life anywhere else. But for us, this is our home right now so we make the most of it. I could follow up this post with “Things I hate about living in the UAE”, for balance. Will you be curious what’s on that list?

World’s first Hyperloop coming soon to the UAE!


I must admit, even with exciting things going on and being built in the UAE’s capital city of Abu Dhabi, the at least 2 hours drive gets to me. There’s a public transport (bus) but not really an option for many people and as of this writing, there is no railway system that connects Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

But who needs the usual railway system when there’s the option of The Hyperloop One!

Today Hyperloop One announced a historic agreement with the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai to study high-speed routes that reduce travel time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to 12 minutes. Here’s a video to see it in motion.

The nitty gritty details of the Hyperloop

  • Hyperloop is a proposed method of travel that would transport people at 740mph (1,200km/h) between distant locations.
  • It was unveiled by Elon Musk in 2013, who said it could take passengers the 380 miles (610km) from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes – half the time it takes a plane.
  • It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum.
  • The tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.
  • Passengers would sit in either individual or group pods, which would then be accelerated with magnets.
  • Capsules carrying six to eight people would depart every 30 seconds.

The Hyperloop One is a very futuristic transport system that promises BIG – Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes instead of 2 hours! I like it! I know that sounds like a scene from a science fiction movie but in this part of the world where the ‘impossible’ is always challenged…you know what will happen next.

When we arrived in the UAE in 2007 and the Dubai Metro was still under construction, we vowed not to leave Dubai until it completes. The Hyperloop One is said to be realized in five years time – I guess we’ll be staying till then?

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 info@privilee.ae 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.

Staying home for Eid Al Adha 2016


Hello. Do you have friends in the UAE on Facebook posting their out of town trips lately? I’m seeing a lot of people on my timeline either in Barcelona, somewhere in Europe, New York or Maldives. Or even to the mountains of Hatta and the beaches of Jumeirah. There’s no traffic on the roads which means most have left town? It’s a very long weekend here in the UAE – 5 days for most and most are making the most out of it.


You never thought you’d read the word ‘most’ in one sentence, did you?

As of me and my family, we’re just staying home, to be with each other’s company, to sort out things in our luggages, take out clothes from the kids’ closet that the kids have outgrown and for me, personally, to recover from travel fatigue.

Travel can be fun, you all know how I love it but we can’t deny that it can be exhausting too. This time, I overdosed on plane rides, eleven flights in 60 days. The most I did in that span of time, so far in my life. Then I had to go back to work a few weeks in between, reporting only a few hours after landing.

Heard of that cliche, “you need a vacation after a vacation”? That my friends, is true.


The thing is – I got back from picking up the kids in the Philippines where they spent a very memorable and life changing summer vacation. Life changing because, being without any of your parents for five weeks is a big deal when you’re 12 and 4 right? Fortunately, they were with their wonderful grandparents who allows them to play in the rain whenever they get the chance so it was a fun vacation after all. We all know it almost rains everyday in that side of the world on July and August so that’s a lot of play time.


So these past 4 days or so, I had plans to blog a lot but instead, I spent so many hours in bed, catching up on sleep. Now’s probably the least exciting short vacation we had ever but when you live in a place you call your second home for almost ten years (and has seen almost everything outside), staying inside is actually a delicious luxury, too.

I actually just woken up from a nap. Ah, a good rest is one of life’s best, best things.

Do you live in the UAE? How did you spend the long weekend?

The most common question expats get

home matsumoto

Another year is about to start so we get the most generic of questions from family and friends back home,

“You’re still there?”

We’re about to welcome another year in Dubai. Didn’t we come here and intend to stay for a few years? You know, just to test the waters? (As of this writing, it’s our 10th summer in Dubai).

All our furniture except for the white goods (fridge and washing machine) were all second-hand when we bought them seven years ago. We’ll only stay for a while so what’s the point of buying all new? But somewhere along the way, home had become the here and now, Dubai.

“How many more years?”

I thought to myself – after all these years and we still don’t have the answer.  A few more years.


Because the more time we spend here, the roots have gone deeper and it seems that moving back home is not as straightforward as it should be.

Japan. We’ve lived there before, how hard can it be? But we do know how hard it can be because the more adjusted an expat is outside of his country, the harder he falls once he repatriates. Once the excitement of homecoming recedes and the steady stream of well-wishers tapers off, reverse culture shock happens.

I should know, I’ve been there. Somewhat.

When I was 19 and studying abroad, I made some of the most significant friendships in my life. I met my husband and formed great friendships in school and later on, at work while there. After living in Japan for 10 years, going back to the Philippines even only for month-long vacations felt strange. It’s like I’ve known the place and the people all my life but then don’t know it at all. Somewhat disconnected with the used to be familiar things. New streets, new malls, that slower pace of life. Everything seems to be different. My former friends were busy with work, their own lives that it was very difficult to gather them all together, in one place. I was back home yet feeling strangely alien to the place. I get so excited when the plane lands but itching to leave only after a few days. (I don’t know if my other five expat siblings all feel the same)

I think when you’re a long term expat, it’s a constant tug of war. It’s like being stuck in limbo: neither here or there. You’ll miss your first home (or second) when you live overseas and then when you’re back home, you miss the exciting life abroad. And by ‘exciting’ – it’s expected anyone who has lived in Dubai will really miss it when they’re gone from here.