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?

What to do in Dubai for a short trip

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What is a “short” trip, anyway? Well, it really depends on an individual’s perception of time. A few hours of layover time? 24 hours? A few days maybe?

I often get emails like,

“I’ll be in Dubai for a short layover what do you suggest I do? Where do I go? Must not miss places?”

“I don’t want to see malls and new glitzy buildings. I want something with culture and character – is there something like that there?”

So now, I’m going to list down things to do in Dubai so next time you find yourself having a few hours to spare in this metropolitan hub, you’ll be a little more informed and you wouldn’t waste precious time.

1. Go to the Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

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Even if visiting a retail shop on a short layover in the UAE is not your idea of fun, The Dubai Mall is still worth a visit. Not only it’s a haven for shoppers, there are several attractions within the area of Downtown Dubai so you can maximize your time to see attractions within the premises of the mall like, the world’s largest panel aquarium 

Dubai aquarium

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the wonderful show of water, light and music of the Dubai fountains if you’re arriving at towards evening time

Dubai fountain

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plus the shopping center is a doorstep in front of the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa

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The Dubai Mall can be accessible by taxi or by public transport via the Dubai Metro Red Line. Stop at Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station. The train station and the mall is conveniently connected by a covered and temperature controlled walkway. 

2. Be on top of the world

at the top

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While you’re at the Dubai Mall, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to see the world from the top. Access to the Burj Khalifa from the mall is at the lower ground floor.

TIP: Buying your At the Top ticket online will cost you much less than if you buy at the ticket office and you’ll also avoid long lines.

3. Take a peek at Dubai’s history at Bur Dubai

bastakiya wind towers

From Downtown Dubai (Dubai Mall) you can take either a cab or better and cheaper by Metro to the old part of Dubai – the Bastakiya District. The tiny Bastakiya quarter was established at the end of the 19th century by well-to-do textile and pearl traders from Bastak, Iran (thus the name Bastakiya). Its labyrinthine lanes are lined with restored merchant’s houses, art galleries, cafés, and boutique hotels. The Bastakiya is a picturesque step into Dubai’s past.

Textile souq is located just a few minutes stroll from Bastakiya and Dubai museum. You’ll see bright colored fabrics and local costumes however, you might be offered to buy a pashmina every step of the way. 

textile souk

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Dubai Museum takes tourists and residents a peek at Dubai’s beginnings. After Dubai museum, you can take a walk to the direction of the textile souq or if you have time to the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Culture and Understanding at the Heritage and Diving Village. Take the creek side to walk. It’s really a refreshing experience especially during cooler months in Dubai (late November to March).

stroll through heritage village

Now it’s time to go to the other side of the creek. Find the abra station. It’s right at the start of the textile souq, where a huge building of Bank of Baroda stands.

abra station 2

This area must be one of the remaining authentic parts of Dubai on the creek side where you can witness a different side of Dubai life.

The Bastakiya District, Dubai Museum and textile souq is accessible by taxi or public transport via the Dubai Metro. Get down at Al Fahidi Metro station on the Green Line and walk towards the direction of the creek.

4. Cross the creek


Dubai is divided into two areas by a natural water inlet called The Dubai Creek: Deira (old Dubai) and Bur Dubai side (new Dubai). From either side of the creek, you can get on a motorized wooden boat called “abra”, the traditional mode of transportation since before the bridges were built. Crossing the Dubai creek in the primitive way is not only fun, it’s cheap! It only costs AED1 per person one way!

dubai creek

Riding an abra while in Dubai is not to be missed – it’s a great break from all that huge commercial malls and other touristy stuff. Plus it’s a good chance to take beautiful photos of life on the creek, as it happens.

Abra station, Bur Dubai side:

5. Smell and see the old world cham of the spice souq and gold souq

spice souq

The Spice Souk is known as the biggest spice market in Dubai with a wide range of spices, herbs, incense and traditional medicinal products. The spice stands are interesting – providing smells and sights you don’t often encounter.

A little warning though: some merchants can be really annoying. Yes, you will be asked to buy cashmere and fake watches but don’t let that bother you.

The neighboring gold souq is where you can find gold jewelry in every type, size and design.

Gold Souq

My honest opinion as someone who has been here for almost 10 years and taking friends who visit Dubai: If you’ve never experienced a souk before, then you might find this area interesting. I sure was impressed the first time I saw all the glittering gold pieces way back in 2006. But if you’ve visited souks in other countries such as Istanbul, where the spice souk is so much more impressive, then I would suggest spending your time elsewhere.

I would still strongly suggest to take the boat ride across the creek though, that is an adventure in itself.

So there, I think these are the top 5 “staples” when visiting Dubai but if you have more time…

6. Dip your feet in the sand.

Black Palace Beach
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Dubai is blessed to have powder soft white sand and crystal clear waters in our beaches. There are plenty of public beaches too that are free to enter. My personal favorite Dubai beaches are Kite Beach, Black Palace Beach and Jumeirah Open Beach.

7. Be amazed at Souk Madinat Jumeirah

madinat jumeirah

I didn’t include Madinat Jumeirah in the top five not because it’s not worth visiting but because when you’re in Dubai for a really short trip, it would not fit into the bill of places to visit when you’re in a rush. You need to spend time here. I love, love this place! A great place to unwind have lunch, shop and take many amazing pictures.

Apart from the maze-like souk, the outside area is like a little Venice. Madinat Jumeirah translates into the ‘City of Jumeirah’, so named because of the sheer variety of this magnificent resort, located in the heart of fashionable Jumeirah. The concept is one of ‘old Arabia’ in a totally luxurious context.

Madinat Jumeirah

8. Take the monorail to Atlantis, The Palm

The Palm Monorail is a good vantage point to see the Palm Jumeirah. From the elevated platform you can have an excellent view of the biggest man-made island in the world, the Palm Jumeirah. Round trip ticket price of the monorail is not cheap at 25 dirhams but the view and visit to Atlantis Hotel is still worth it.

At this moment, the monorail station is not connected with Dubai metro or the Dubai tram. However, access has been easier if you take the tram and get down at Palm Jumeirah station – the monorail station is a short walk away.

9. Get on a Desert Safari adventure

desert safari

If you happen to be in Dubai during winter time, consider the desert safari for sure, it is a nice experience. Mostly done int he afternoon, you will be collected from your hotel (or you go at a designated meeting place) and driven out to the desert. The driver lets a little air out of the tires and he drives all over the huge sand dunes. After spending a great time over the sand dunes you then are taken to an outdoor area filled with tables and huge cushions and surrounded by stalls where you are given a buffet dinner and treated to belly dancing and other shows.

Read my previous post: Dubai desert safari

TIPS: (1) Don’t try this if you get even mild travel / motion sickness! (2) Find the right vendor as there are many offering cheap desert tour with mediocre service.

10. Feel the metropolitan x beach vibe at The Walk, JBR

the walk

The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence is Dubai’s first outdoor shopping and fine dining promenade where you can explore stylish boutiques, restaurants, shopping spots. This attractive outdoor shopping and dining promenade was an immediate hit when it opened in 2008.

The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence can be accessed by public transport via the Dubai Metro Red Line. Get down at Dubai Marina station and change to the Dubai tram stopping at Jumeirah Beach Residence 1.

Don’t want your adventure to stop at Dubai? Make Dubai your starting point for an adventure!

Word just came through that Royal Caribbean’s newest addition, Ovation of the Seas will depart on a series of 3, 5 and 7 day cruises around Europe before heading to Dubai and from here, on a 52 day Global Odyssey tour to the East.

To help promote the routes and destinations Ovation of the Seas is taking in Europe before heading to Asia, they are mapping her journey on Royal Caribbean’s Instagram. In 27 posts, Royal Caribbean’s Instagram account will show Ovation of the Seas as she travels to different destinations, creating one final image which features a Bird’s Eye view of the ship with the European stops on each side.


I have not been on a cruise and I dream of being in one someday! I know there are so many myths about going on a cruise like you’ll get bored because of the long journey, for example but scratch that, this ship offers so much entertainment on board including (gasp) floating on air inside an iFly tube and surfing simulation!

Royal Caribbean International launches Quantum of the Seas, the newest ship in the fleet, in November 2014. View across the pool deck at sunset

Royal Caribbean International launches Quantum of the Seas, the newest ship in the fleet, in November 2014.
View across the pool deck at sunset

An exciting feature of the Ovation of the Seas ship (and could easily become my favorite) is the North Star, a jewel-shaped capsule that gently ascends over 300 feet above sea level offering breath-taking 360° views of the sea and the ship’s destinations. Ah, I am sure the views would be unbeatable.

Before I swoon too much about this new ship, I am proud to announce that I am one of the contributors to the Royal Caribbean’s Instagram project and my photos (set of photos presented as a gif) will be used to represent one of their destinations (Dubai) in the full mosaic. Watch out for the project hashtag #ExtraordinaryOvation and hashtag for the ship is #OvationoftheSeas.

So, looking at the above list, what would you do if you have a day in Dubai? And have you been on a cruise?

24 hours in Salzburg

salzburg aerial 1

Salzburg is a charming place in Austria. No, scratch that, I’d say it’s a magical place. I already fell in love with Austria after spending 24 hours in Vienna but when I arrived in Salzburg, I feel that love intensify.

salzburg aerial 2

This post is about how I spent my 24 hours in Salzburg (in actuality, it’s less than 24 hours!) and I will tell you now at the beginning of this post: Do NOT spend 24 hours in Salzburg because…the city deserves MORE! But if you do not have any choice and only have a day, well, read on.

Unless you are travelling on a tour package, the first you must do once you arrive in Salzburg and especially if you have limited time to explore the city is to go to the Salzburg Info Center located at Mozartplatz at the Old Town.

The staff are very friendly, speaks English and willing to help you plan out your itinerary for the day. Pick up a free map and purchase the Salzburg card. this pass gets you access to most of the city’s main attractions for 24 hours and free access to public transport.

Reference: Why you should use the city cards in Austria

After I picked up my Salzburg card and map from the tourism office, I just crossed the street and found myself at the Old Town. The Old Town was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Its blast-from-the-past cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, lined with houses painted in bright, beautiful colors, elegant shops and restaurants, combine with an unhurried pace of life to make it an ideal destination for a relaxing city break at any time of year.

I bet the Old Town looks better on normal days but when I was there, it was Oktoberfest and there were tables and tents and umbrella shades for this annual festival.

old town 1

I headed to Salzburg Cathedral. I am truly amazed by the architecture and design inside the church, never mind the feels that it gave me.

cathedral 2

cathedral 1

cathedral 3

cathedral 4

This Roman Catholic church still contains the baptismal font that was used to baptize Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized here and the interior offers fine baroque architecture. My next stop was the Salzburg Fortress, known to locals as Festung Hohensalzburg.

hohensalzburg fortress

This is the largest and best-preserved fortress in Central Europe and is quite an impressive sight. From Old Town, take the cable railway to the top of the hill. (The cable railway ascent and descent which is normally 11.30 Euros is free with your Salzburg Card). More about this fortress in a separate post!

hohensalzburg fortress 2

I spent so much time at the fortress because I participated in a guided tour and took a lot of photos. Who can ever get enough being up there, looking at Salzburg from up, and those beautiful mountains over the horizon? In short, it was already lunch time when I descended from the fortress. Oh, and by the way I know you want to ask – YES, in Salzburg, the hills are truly alive!

the hills are alive

And the Oktoberfest was in full swing.

Oktoberfest in Salzburg

Since I am traveling on a budget but didn’t want to deprive myself some “cultural immersion”, (AHEM), I sat down and chose the cheapest from the menu. The small glass of beer and plate of food cost 13 Euros. It was quite weird to sit down in an Oktoberfest alone but what to do…and I was really hungry already. {The beer was amazing!}

Oktoberfest in Salzburg 2

After lunch, I roamed around Old Town, from the main plaza to the little corners.

fest in old town 1

fest in old town 2

fest in old town 3

I love that the whole town was so vibrant and everyone was holding a drink, even nuns…and I think that’s *not* juice hee hee.

nun with a drink

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Right in the Old Town is the house where Salzburg’s most famous son was born, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s a bit unfortunate that some of the people I spoke to didn’t know who Mozart was…I was so proud to tell them, “I’ve been to the house where one of the world’s greatest composer in the Classical era!”

mozarts birth place

Mozart’s family lived in that YELLOW building and that was where he was born. I learned something from that tour – Mozart didn’t have any descendants! Neither of his sons were married and all died childless.

around old town

My feet have not recovered from all the walking that I did the day before in Vienna but there was no time to rest, except for a few hours the night before…only a few hours because I wasn’t able to sleep well, excited for the things I’m going to see in Salzburg!

mirabell 2

Having a very rushed itinerary wasn’t a joke – my feet’s about to give up already but I have to see the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. A more detailed post later but if you’ve seen the movie, The Sound of Music, you’ll know the significance of this place!

After Mirabell Palace and Gardens, I went back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and headed to the station to catch my 7 pm train to Innsbruck – capital of Austria’s western state of Tyrol, a city in the Alps that’s long been a destination for winter sports. I have a friend who lives there and I planned to stay for 3.5 days.

Final word: if I could go back to Austria again, I will definitely visit Salzburg again and stay for at least 2 days – I need to go on that Sound of Music tour (don’t judge). Then probably, I will do a side trip to Hallstatt, too. It’s only about an hour and a half from Salzburg! LOOK!


Photo credit: Wikipedia

Isn’t Austria magical? It looks straight out of a fairy tale book!

Budget travel: Austria


So as I mentioned in the post where I announced that I was going to Austria, I intended to travel my way through 3 Austrian cities on a budget.

Maybe you’re one of the those who wouldn’t think Austria or Europe and “budget travel” could belong in the same sentence. I certainly thought too that wasn’t possible until I made the trip myself, on a shoestring budget. Here’s what I did to enjoy Austria without breaking the bank.

1. Plan ahead – starting with your international flight from your city of origin to Vienna (or to any point in Austria)

I’ve always wanted to go to Austria since forever and this will be our little secret: I have played a lot on the Expedia app on my phone, entering probable dates, searching when it’s cheaper to go. And after a few trials, I kind of know which dates are relatively cheap. But the basic rule is this: never fly on peak season or holidays. Sad reality, I know for corporate slaves like me who rely on holidays to travel.

However,I found a reasonable ticket around the Eid Al Adha holidays a month before, I swear that was the ultimate sign that I should go. I immediately bought it. It was direct flight via Emirates! I immediately bought it and found out after a few days that the price has doubled (as the holidays neared).


  • Plane fares fluctuate a lot and they do get more expensive as the date of flight nears so better lock it in early when you find something reasonable (and within your allocated budget).

So yeah, install that Expedia app and play around with the dates beforehand!

2. Use the Tourist Cards

I was in Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck and the city cards really helped me a lot. All 3 regional cards will give you unlimited access to public transportation. Except for the Vienna card that offer only discounts for entrance to museums and other attractions, the Salzburg and Innsbruck cards offer free. The cards can be bought online or at the Tourist offices in each of the cities.


Here’s a detailed post about each of the cards and my experience using it: The Austrian tourist cards, are they worth it?

3. Book train tickets in advance

I needed long distance tickets from Vienna to Salzburg, Salzburg to Innsbruck and Innsbruck back to Vienna and if you are planning to visit other places in Austria, what better way to explore this beautiful country than using the railway that travels through stunning mountain scenery, lush alpine meadows, historic towns and picturesque villages.


The train journey from Innsbruck to Vienna was about 4 hours and while it’s tempting to sleep, how can you sleep with this view outside?


The Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen or ÖBB) site is very easy to use and you can purchase tickets online way before you travel. Example, if I am to travel from Vienna to Innsbruck (a must visit in Austria, by the way!) and booking a train ticket a week before my travel, the prices will be like this for date of travel: October 14, 2015, Date of booking/purchasing ticket: October 6, 2015

Vienna to Innsbruck 1 week early booking


  • The train ticket price for long distance train travel within Austria varies depending on the time. Same distance, different time means different prices.
  • If you are travelling on a budget, play around with the time in the OBB site so you can choose a more affordable one and adjust your itinerary accordingly.

However, if I would be travelling from Vienna to Innsbruck TOMORROW and book/purchase my ticket TODAY, these would be the price options for me for date of travel: October 7, 2015, Date of booking/purchasing ticket: October 6, 2015. Bye bye cheap ticket!!

Vienna to Innsbruck near date booking


  • Everything is expensive when you purchase train tickets near your travel date!

So, when you book early, you have the option of choosing the cheaper ticket called SparSchiene Österreich.


This type of ticket has limited allocation restricted to a specific train, no exchange, no refund, no cancellation so be sure to plan your itinerary well and stick to your time plan because the discounted tickets cannot be refunded, changed or reimbursed.



I bought this type of ticket and the train compartment was decent, clean and safe. No problems, whatsoever.

BONUS TIP (Travelling from airport to city center):

Unless you are in a hurry, I would suggest traveling to the city center from the airport by normal train. I used the City Airport Train (CAT) from Vienna International Airport to Wien Mitte Landstrasse because my flight arrived at night and didn’t want to wander around too late in the city I am not familiar with yet. It only takes 16 minutes for the CAT to reach the city center. For normal train, around 30 minutes. However, the CAT costs 11 euros while the normal train is only 4.40 Euros.

4. Choose cheap hotels

Real talk: You would likely to spend most of your time exploring the city and will only use the hotel for sleeping. Instead of staying in luxurious and expensive hotels (nothing wrong if it fits your budget!), you could use the money to buy some local food fares or souvenirs to take back home.

The good news is that there are still a lot of cheaper accommodation options in Austria like hostels, AirBnB or basic hotels.

There were cheaper hotel options in Vienna but I chose a hotel with convenient metro access for my accommodation in Vienna because I was arriving late and did not want to get lost in a city I do not know yet. I stayed at Motel One Wien Hauptbahnhof as it was literally just a stone’s throw away from Wien Hauptbahnhof station. The hotel was new, modern and clean. Very basic though but comfortable enough for sleeping. They had a good breakfast spread too.

Church in Salzburg

My accommodation in Salzburg was pretty reasonable too. I stayed in a church guest house Gastehaus im Priestseminar. It’s not too near the main train station and I had to take a bus but I know that Salzburg was smaller and less complicated than Vienna so I took the chance. The bus stop was just right outside the station and the church was a short walk from the bus stop. It’s also only 5 minutes away from Mirabell Palace and Gardens so location is not bad! More detailed review in another post.


I also considered booking Salzburgrooms and Hotel Garni Evido for the cheap price as well as proximity to the main train station Salzburg Hauptbahnhof.

From this trip, I learned that there are affordable hotels near the Old Town: Altstadthotel Wiesse Taube. It’s a great base as most of the attractions in Salzburg are around the Old Town.

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

5. No fancy dining and drinking

For food, you can find inexpensive fare at snack bars all over town that sell pizza, Turkish sandwiches known as “kebaps” and other quick bites. The most popular, called “wurstelstands,” sell Austrian sausages and hot dogs.


Restaurants in the busy central area of Vienna can be expensive, but you can save on eating out by having your main meal at lunchtime. I had my lunch at Naschmarkt, an open air market with many restaurants offer a cheaper mittagsmenü, where you can get a two- or three- course meal from a set menu for under €10.


And if you’re self-catering there are also several Spar supermarkets in the city centre or at train stations.

When I was staying at hotels in Vienna and Salzburg, I chose hotels that offer breakfast. Then for lunch, I buy a sandwich and water from a deli or Spar to power me through all the walking I made.  At night, I had very light meal of yoghurt, some fruit and bread again because I am too tired to even eat! (Don’t worry mom, I took my vitamin supplements with me on trips…)

TIP: Never buy water at attractions but buy them at Spar convenient stores at the train stations (0.60 Euros compared to 2 Euros or more at museum stores).

24 hours in Vienna

Exploring Vienna

Actually I was in Vienna for less than 24 hours but I had the whole day, from the moment I woke up and stepped out of the hotel door to the streets of Vienna till I left the city at 7 pm headed to Salzburg. It was my first time in Vienna and I must admit, even if I did so much research before boarding my flight alas, there’s just so much you could squeeze in a day so I just kind of winged it and chose a few “must see” places. 

Bear in mind that this itinerary is no way a fixed itinerary for your 24 hours in Vienna. There are so many places to see, and this was just my experience.

Anyway, I feel Vienna is so much like Tokyo: the vibe, the crowd, the subway stations. It’s so much like Tokyo except for, say, there are bakeries instead of standing noodle shops. I explored the city using public transport in Vienna, there’s no need to hire a car so did not use any taxi, or rented a car, and did lots of exploring by foot. The underground train system, trams and buses are easy to use, punctual and safe and it’s all free when you have the Vienna Card (more on this in another post!).

This was my itinerary.

1. St. Stephen’s Cathedral

I don’t know what got to me but this was the first place I really wanted to visit from the list of places to see in Vienna. So many people I know think it’s easy for me to just hop on the plane and just go but actually it’s not. So I am really overwhelmed I am able to finally step foot on Austria and wanted to spend a quiet time inside a church in Vienna before I go out and roam around.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (more commonly known by its German title: Stephansdom) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Right outside the exit at Stephansplatz (U1, U3), you can immediately see the majestic church. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is particularly famous for its majestic towers, which have dominated Vienna’s skyline for centuries. The tallest of these is the Steffl, as the Viennese call the South Tower. While it’s a tough climb up the 343 steps to the Watch Room, it’s worth it for the spectacular views over the city.

above stephensdom

View of Vienna atop the North Tower, home to the massive Pummerin Bell (largest in Austria), rung only on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve. A fast lift takes visitors up for 5.50 Euros (as of this writing).

above stephensdom 2

The roof of the cathedral is decorated with more than two hundred thousand glazed tiles. They form enormous mosaics depicting a double headed eagle (symbol of the Holy Roman Empire) and the coats of arms of Vienna and Austria.

stephensdom collage

I found the solace and serenity I was looking for inside the church because I was so early there. When I was up at the tower, there was no one there too so I had early morning thoughts under the gray Viennese skies with the cold, crisp autumn air on my face (it was cold!).

stephensdom 3

stephensdom 2

The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is accessible from Stephansplatz station (U1, U3).

2. Hotel Sacher

Why head to a hotel early in the morning? Hotel Sacher is not an ordinary hotel, it is home to a cake. And not just an ordinary cake but a very famous (even once controversial) cake.The Original Sacher-Torte has been the most famous cake in the world since 1832. 

cafe sacher

I’ve read there’d be long queues of tourists outside the cafe later in the day so I made it early to tick this off my list.

sacher cafe 1

My order of the original sacher-torte and Wien Melange came in very quickly. I don’t normally drink coffee but they say the cake is best with this coffee so I gave in. Most of the people at the cafe were locals who were having breakfast. You would know which ones from the crowd are tourists in this cafe – they will be the ones with the slice of cake and Wien Melange (German for Viennese Blend), like me. For coffee fans, the Wien Melange is “one espresso shot served in a large coffee cup topped with steamed milk and milk foam”.


I’ve heard and read two contracting comments about this: “Visiting Vienna cannot be complete if you don’t try their world famous Sacher-Torte!” and “It’s overrated, skip it!”. I don’t want to overthink because we all know there’s only one way to find out: to try it yourself! I paid around 10 Euros for the cake and coffee, by the way.

My opinion about the chocolate the world has marked as “best”?

Not bad. But let’s say I’ve had better chocolate cakes in my life, somewhere. Of course, you shouldn’t take my word for it, I would still say, try it when you are in Vienna!

The Hotel Sacher is only a few minutes walk from St. Stephen’s Cathedral though accessible from Karlsplatz station (U1, U2, U4).

3. Ringstrasse

After getting my sugar fix at the Cafe Sacher, I was ready to start  serious walking around the city. First up, Ringstrasse or The Ring Road where some of Austria’s most attractive and most important buildings stand shoulder to shoulder.

ringstrasse 1

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family.

ringstrasse 3

Definitely one of the most exquisite buildings in Vienna, the Hofburg is the former Imperial Palace that has housed some of the most important people in Austrian history. Originally as castle built in 1918 for the imperial family, it now houses the offices for the President of Austria.

Other buildings I found on my way to Ringstrasse.

ringstrasse 2

ringstrasse 4

ringstrasse 5

I imagine it would take at least 2 hours to walk around all of the buildings at Ringstrasse. I suddenly envied the tourists who were shuttled by bus from one building to another. Vienna weather was gray, cold and dreary that day. Your feet’s endurance in walking wasn’t the only challenge, the cold too. I did not bring gloves and cap!

4. Schonbrunn Palace

After walking along Ringstrasse, I got on the subway again to go to a more distant Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palace complexes.

schonbrunn 3

This is quite far from central Vienna but still easily accessible by the U-bahn (subway) so I went. By this time, my feet are already very tired after walking for at least 5 hours already. When you get down at the station, be prepared to walk for at least 15 minutes to get to the palace and once you enter the gates, you need lots of energy to walk around the expansive gardens.

schonbrunn 4

The Vienna card entitles the holder a discount for the palace entrance and other attractions (the labyrinth, etc). However, there was already a crowd of tourists at the ticket windows so I skipped it.

schonbrunn 2

You can still stroll on the palace grounds without buying tickets. Many reviews mention that you would need at least 3 hours to explore the rooms inside the palace and the gardens and to climb up the top of the hill to get a view of Vienna. I did not have that much luxury of time!

The Schloss Schonbrunn is a few minutes walk from Schonbrunn station (U4 Hutteldorf direction).

5. Nashmarkt

After The Schonbrunn Palace, I took my dying feet back to the city. I got down at Kettenbruckengasse to visit the Naschmarkt – at 2.315 hectares, it is the largest urban market in Vienna and it’s over half a kilometer long with over 100 permanent stalls.

nashmarkt 4

The Naschmarket is an open market that contains small shops that sell spices, tea, herbs and food from different countries.

nashmarkt 3

nashmarkt 2

There are also traditional Viennese eateries serving schnitzel and sausages, and there are fish restaurants, sushi, Vietnamese, Chinese, ice cream parlors.

naschmarkt collage

Known as one of the famous markets in Vienna, this is quite a size, even though part of it was closed off for building works while I was there. But despite its size, the types of stalls do get rather repetitive and if you’re someone like me who comes from the Middle East and want to see something else rather than falafels, kebabs, shawarmas, spices, dried fruits and nuts which are already aplenty in the Middle East, I think you can skip this market, especially if you only have a day in Vienna!

References: The Vienna Subway Network Maps, Vienna card

I’m going to Austria!


In a few days, I will be travelling, alone.

The last time travelled alone was before I got married. That’s like, more than 12 years ago! Sure I’ve travelled alone without the husband or any of my children when I participated in a bloggers trip to Thailand in 2011 and to Turkey in 2013 but I was in a group that time. I was not totally, alone-alone.

This time I will be leaving on a jet plane, alone-alone. Roaming in Vienna and Salzburg alone.

Why am I doing this?

Because there’s a long-ish weekend coming up and while window surfing for airfares (like I always do when there’s a longish weekend, you know, daydreaming and all), I found something I can pay for. Also, I saw this in the internet staring at my face while I was thinking of the crazy possibility to just fly out.

Just go

I am going to do it because I want to do it! Because I know in my heart I really want to do this. You know those moments when you start to think about something and then you cannot stop thinking about it that your heart shouts, “Just do it!” in this case, it’s a silent shout that says “Just go!”

The long-ish weekend is from the 23rd to 26th September for Eid Al Adha. The plane ticket fares I found was fairly reasonable via Emirates Airlines (US$633 round trip) which flies from Dubai direct to Vienna (in 5 hours and 45 minutes).

I will be spending a short time in Vienna. Short as in probably 24 hours, God help me.


Photo credit

And then to Salzburg which is a couple of hours away from Vienna. Cue the songs from The Sound of Music.


…and then off to Innsbruck, which is a couple of hours away from Salzburg to visit my long time friend and her family who lives in that very charming part of the world!


Excited and terrified at the same time, have you felt like that?

It’s not like this is my first time to travel alone. I did it before. What’s the difference between the past and now? For one, I did not have my beautiful children yet who by the way are wonderful travel companions. It took me a while to make my final decision because I will be missing them so much but the husband had been very supportive because he knows about my crazy dream of doing a railway trip around Europe since the day we met. I am not going around all of Europe this time, only within Austria but I’ll take it.

Oh and huge thanks to my baby sister who helped me make this crazy dream of mine possible. I get the reward from washing her dirty cloth diapers during my teen years. Cough, cough.

I’ll be (of course) blogging about my trip and you can find updates while I’m on the road on Twitter, Instagram.

I may also add that this is an ultimate budget trip, like the poorest trip I’ve ever been! I might be the only person going to Europe and coming back lighter! The purpose here is to fill the eyes and my camera memory cards, not my tummy!

Things to see in Camiguin island, Philippines (Part 1)

Camiguin Day 1

Camiguin island is such a small island that one full day is enough to see it all. But of course if you have the luxury of time, it’s always good to take it slow and bask in the island’s natural beauty in a slower pace. I would have loved to stay longer (we were there for only 2 nights) but had other things to do so only limited our stay. Because of that we missed some places to go but oh well, that only meant we need to go back.

I am sure there will be another trip to Camiguin in store for us.

The small island of Camiguin is known for its natural wonders, beautiful rural spots, historical events, festivals and unique delicacies, Camiguin is an island bursting with adventure.

This is the list of the places we visited in Camiguin that’s pretty much what you can see when you search Google. However, our taste of the wonderful island life didn’t really start at number 1 on this list, it started with the drives from Benoni port to our accommodation in Mambajao.

roadside camiguin

The (only) main road circles around the island so it’s sea view all throughout. I highly recommend you open the door of your car and let the wind kiss your face. There is very little pollution in the island unlike in the big city where there are plenty of cars.

Here are two places we went to on our first day in Camiguin.


katibawasan 1

A friend who was kind enough to spare his time to pick us up at the port was only about to take us to our hotel in Mambajao from the port but when we reached, he asked “so what’s the plan?”. We looked at each other with blank expressions on our faces (I told you in my travel guide to Camiguin, this was an impromptu trip although we know the staple must-see places to go…). My brothers and I planned to hire a van to take us to some of the tourist spots of the island but Chris, my friend who is from the island said, I’m off for the whole afternoon, I will take you to two places, at least!

on the way to Katibawasan

We couldn’t pass up on that opportunity. Our local guide was very enthusiastic to show us around and mighty proud of it – I would be too if I am from here. The island is beautiful. First up was Katibawasan falls located at the foot of Mt. Timpoong, Barangay Upper Pandan, approximately five kilometers southeast of the Municipality of Mambajao.Katibawasan Falls can be easily reached from Mambajao towards the southern portion, passing through a 600m- concrete road after which you start to negotiate gravel- and- mud road.

katibawasan 2

Katibawasan falls as seen by a local, my friend Chris and by tourists, my two children! Chris might have seen this a thousand times already.

katibawasan 3

We were ready for swimming but surprisingly (for us, not for the locals I am sure), the water was freezing. There’s a part of the waterfall, just directly where it drops that’s prohibited for swimming. There’s a rope (or net?) separating that deeper part of the pool, follow the rules and don’t go there. We’ve heard from our guide that many people have drowned there.

katibawasan testing the waters

Nevertheless, my trip companions braved the freezing waters and dived in. “Come on, it’s only tough during the first few seconds!” Don’t wonder if I am not in the pics – I do not do well with ice cold waters! But better that way because if I had been swimming, no one wold take pictures, right? By the way, we had the place all to ourselves since we were there on a weekday. That made the swim more enjoyable.

katibawasan exclusive for us

Not bad for the first leg of our tour of Camiguin, huh? It’s not everyday you get the have the waterfall all to yourself!

Outside Katibawasan falls, going back to the main road, there are vendors selling different foodstuffs. It’s a small village and the sight reminded me of the 1980’s. The whole scenery has that vintage feel to it.

katibawasan vendors

TIP: While there, don’t miss to try out the local delicacy called “kiping” – made from dried cassava (tapioca) , grounded, mixed with water then fried. This thin, crispy, cheap street food can be a desert or a snack during your tour around the island. It is big as a medium-size plate drizzled with with “latik”, a sweet caramelized coconut sauce.


Photo credit Traveling Morion

katibawasan kiping

Photo credit Lonely Travelogue

Additional information: (As of this writing, Sept 2015) There’s a PHP30 per person to enter Katibawasan falls.


hibok2 observatory

We were ready to call it a day when Chris said, “I want to take you up there where you can have one of the best vantage points to see the island and the sea beyond!” We had no idea where it was but we happily said, yes please!

Camiguin is home to seven volcanoes, and the most popular in the list is the Hibok-Hibok. For sure, you have encountered this in many travel websites or books. Hibok Hibok last erupted in 1951 and is still considered an active volcano. Chris’ trusty and burly 4 wheel drive car climbed up the mountain and we pulled over to a small building just beside the hill.

hibok2 view 3

This view was what greeted us. The Observatory is not one of the staple tourist spots in the guidebooks and among people who has been to Camiguin but don’t you think this is worth visiting?

hibok2 view 1

hibok2 view 2

hibok2 view 4

We arrived in Camiguin island just past noon time, traveled from the port to our accommodation, had lunch and when we got out for our first island adventure, it was already past 2 pm so we only ventured out to these two attractions and called it a day.

hibok2 observatory going down

It was monsoon season in the Philippines the time we were there and it would rain almost every afternoon in Cagayan de Oro City, where we were based. We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to see these beautiful blue skies in Camiguin. The rain clouds did start to gather when we descended down Mt. Hibok Hibok. We rested (took a long nap) as soon as we reached our accommodation in Mambajao and went out to the town center to find a place to eat dinner. Villa Paraiso was ok but there were no pedicabs going to the uphill location so we had to walk up to the main road. I can’t help but think of the energy we need to reserve to be able to walk up after dinner. We brought an umbrella just in case it rains and it did rain after we had our dinner!

Public transport in Camiguin island is very limited. There are pedicabs, multicabs (more like open type vans) but we did not see any taxis for hire. And…the operating hours could throw you off. It becomes difficult to catch any form of public transport from the only main road after 8pm…and earlier when it is raining!

So it’s either you have your own car when you tour the island or hire any form of transport to follow you around. Otherwise, don’t venture out after 8pm!

A travel guide to Camiguin island, Philippines

born of fire

One of the highlights of my recent vacation to the Philippines is finally stepping on Camiguin island! I finally decided I should go to Camiguin because I would want to look at pics of this wonderful island in Google images and blogs of the lucky people who had been there and point, “I’ve been there too!”

Plus, it’s really a bit shameful that I’ve been to the Maldives but never been to that little island worthy to be called “paradise” on the tip of Northern Mindanao, just a ‘few’ hours from where I live in the Philippines.


Camiguin is an island province located in northern Mindanao. It is situated 10 km north of Misamis Oriental and 54 km southeast of Bohol.

Barely 240 square kilometers in land area, Camiguin is the second smallest island of the Philippines in both area and population. It is just 23 kilometers at its longest and just a bit more than 14 kilometers at its widest. Within this small area lie seven volcanoes. Because of this, little Camiguin is the island “born of fire.”



There is an airport in Mambajao, the capital of Camiguin province but the flights are limited and only from major cities in the Philippines like Manila or Cebu.

Otherwise, take a flight to Cagayan de Oro City. From Cagayan de Oro, take a bus from Agora Bus Terminal going to Balingoan. Buses going to Butuan will pass by Balingoan. Bus fare (airconditioned bus) was PHP140 for adults. Travel from Agora bus terminal to Balingoan is about 2-3 hours, depending on traffic in Cagayan de Oro. Our travel time was about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

at balingoan

TIP: If you are prone to motion sickness, you should take medication just to be on the safe side. The road to Balingoan wasn’t rough or winding. But about 10 minutes before reaching Balingoan, the road tends to be bendy and my 3 year old son threw up. He was ok after that but I wish I was more cautious and gave him something before boarding the bus.

From Balingoan Bus Terminal, you can either walk to Balingoan port or take pedicabs if you have luggage. We took a pedicab because we were in a hurry to get into the 9am ferry. Fare was PHP10 each.

super shuttle ferry

We arrived at Balingoan port after a short pedicab ride but the 9am ferry was already closed for boarding though there was still a few minutes left before its departure time. We didn’t have a choice but wait for another hour for the next ferry.

at balingoan 2

~ at the waiting area for ferry passengers ~

From Balingoan Port, buy ferry tickets from the stands just outside the port entrance. Regular ferry fare is PHP170 and for children is half fare at PHP85.

balingoan port 2

* Daily ferry schedules from Balingoan Port leaves every hour from 5 am. Unfortunately, I could not find any website with reliable and accurate ferry schedules.

* There is a ferry called Ocean Jet from Cagayan de Oro to Benoni Port in Camiguin but more expensive, like double the fare than the bus + ferry combined.

inside the ferry Collage

The ferry ride was a smooth one with minor waves. Camiguin isn’t very far from the mainland of Mindanao. We can actually see the island from Balingoan port! The kids slept through the trip which lasted about an hour and a half. (We did not travel with my husband this time but thankfully, I have two brothers with me who helped me take care of the kiddos!)


welcome to camiguin

We arrived in Camiguin around noon. A friend of ours was there to pick us up at Benoni port! We were lucky even if our trip was short notice, our friend accommodated us in his schedule! Camiguin is a small island and the you can tour it by:

1. Using your own car

If you have a car you want to take to the island, that’s possible by paying extra on your ferry ride from Balingoan port. The ferries are ro-ro type (Roll on/ roll off). Ro-ro ships are specially types of ships that are designed to carry cars, trains, and even smaller ships. Your car will be “rolled on” the vessel at the port of loading and “rolled off” the vessel at the destination.

2. Hiring

There are several vans and multicabs that can accommodate large groups available just outside the port. Price depends on your negotiation skills. Your accommodation can also arrange for tours around the island as they have vans for hire. You can hire a single motorcycle, a motorela or a multicab within the city.

We hired a multicab with driver promising to take us to 7 tourist spots for PHP1400. I know people would usually negoticate but it was already cheap and I found out that the price of gasoline in Camiguin is at least PHP10 more expensive than in Cagayan de Oro City so we paid what the driver initially asked for!

road in the island

Camiguin island’s main road is a beach side circumferential road so you get the view of the sea when you tour the island from the main road. If that instantly make you feel you’re in paradise, I don’t know what will!


camiguin map

In a nutshell, 7 active volcanoes! That means very diverse natural attractions like cold springs, hot springs, hike trails, falls, soda water spring, ruins from the last volcanic eruption and of course the beautiful beaches.

approaching camiguin 2

The wonderful places we went to around the island needs to have a post of its own, so stay tuned!


Unless you’ll be staying with friends or family in Camiguin, you will need a place to stay. There are a few hotels/inns you can find at hotel booking sites and you might want to book ahead before going, to be safe, especially when you go on peak season. But, there are several smaller and more affordable accommodation options which are not advertised online!

villa paraiso

We booked our first night at Villa Paraiso Resort and Apartelle, located in Mambajao, a 20 minute car ride away from Benoni port. “Paraiso” means “paradise” and look at the sky! Don’t you think they aptly named this apartelle? There are rooms in the main building (look at their website for details) and there are also rooms at the back of the main building, in lined up cottage style. We stayed here.

villa paraiso 2


A word in booking for accommodation: we did not book days ahead. Actually, I called Villa Paraiso while our bus was leaving Cagayan de Oro at 7 am. July is not peak season at all so that’s why this is possible however, during peak season, it might be safer to book days before you arrive.

My brother and his wife stayed in one room and me and another brother + my 2 kids stayed in another. We paid PHP2,400 total for two rooms inclusive of breakfast. There is a restaurant inside Villa Paraiso that offered good food at reasonable price, however, service was slow. Our stay was ok. The rooms were basic but there was no hot water and the way to this inn was an uphill ride from the main street. We heard no pedicab would climb up and with the lack of taxis in Camiguin, we were lucky that our friend who lives on the island picked us up at the port in his trusty 4×4 and brought us here.

The next day, we wanted to stay near the beach, so we ventured out to the other side of Mambajao. We did not have reservation anywhere but we do know there are a lot of smaller inns owned by locals. Nearby is also the very famous Paras Beach Resort, one of Camiguin’s first fancy accommodation options.


We opted to stay at Pabua’s Cottages for our second and final night at Camiguin. We negotiated for PHP1,200 for one cottage that could accommodate all of us (4 adults + 2 kids). I say that’s a real bargain from our previous one at Villa Paraiso. However, the room rate did not include breakfast. We took our breakfast at the restaurant inside Paras Beach Resort which was just across the street. Not a big deal.

coconut trees

We had a great time in Camiguin. It was an impromptu getaway with two of my siblings and my kids. Unlike my previous travels where I get OCD with planning and preparation, we had the “just swing it” travel style and it was ok. Next up: checking out this mystical island and an unexpected storm that sent me in semi-panic mode.

If you are living in the Philippines and have not been to Camiguin island, I highly recommend you pay a visit. It’s one of the Philippines’ less touristy, less hyped up places you can relax and just soak in life, as it happens, in slow motion. I love life in the rural areas.

And if you are a foreigner reading this, you can still visit the Philippines’ most popular spots like Cebu, Boracay or Palawan but Camiguin is a must see too and you’ll thank me later.

Dubai winter time is park time

Benjamin no train ride

A couple of weekends ago, this happened.

We went to the Ripe Food & Craft Market at Zabeel Park. Everyone’s talking about it and it’s like the “go to” event every Friday when winter starts in Dubai so I really wanted to see how’s it like. The Ripe Food & Craft Markets in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah offer organic produce, grown by local farmers in the UAE. The Ripe stall stocks a great range of seasonal fruits and vegetables grown organically by local UAE farmers. I know what you’re thinking – “farm”? “farmers”? “organic produce”? in the desert?

Yeah. I was curious too, that’s why I wanted to go.

The Friday market event starts at 9 am and it gets really crowded fast. When we arrived at Zabeel Park, going to Gate 1 where the market is, there was no place to park anymore. The husband dropped me and the kids at Gate 2 and I bid him good luck in finding a place to park (later on, I found out that he was only able to park at Gate SIX).

At Gate 2, there is an amusement setup with everything a toddler could wish for. There was a bouncy castle, bump cars, other sorts of rides but most of all, there was a choo choo train. Benjamin Loves trains with a capital L.

P in park

The Ripe Market was at Gate 1 and I thought we’d go there first and just come back to Gate 2 for the choo choo train ride later. Benjamin was very disappointed but being a good boy as he is, he believed me when I said, “later”. But there was no later. The husband met us at the Ripe Market at Gate 1 and said, he parked the car so far away, definitely not in Gate 2. Benjamin had fun at the play area of Zabeel Park, near Gate 1 so he totally forgot about the choo choo train ride, actually.

It wasn’t until we went home and I was looking at the photos in bed in the dark that I realized the above photo where he looks at the train is so sad. You could not see his face but you can feel the longing. I can feel the longing!

We had to go back! Today is a holiday for the 43rd National Day of the UAE so it was a perfect chance for a day at the park.

P and b on the choo choo train

Benjamin finally got to ride the choo choo train today and his face was really serious! He didn’t let go of the small steering wheel at the front, thinking he’s the one running the train! I am so glad we went! He can’t stop looking at the video.

Now December – when most of the countries play the song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” nothing can be truer than that with the weather in Dubai in December. The breeze is cool, the skies are clear (no rain or snow) and the temperatures are neither too hot and never too cold (it is a bit chilly in early mornings and evenings but a light cardigan would do).

Zabeel Park

So many families, expats and locals alike flock to the parks, these massive green areas in the desert that the government has made for us residents to enjoy. There is an entrance fee of AED 5 each (children are free) but the park is well cared for and maintained, we couldn’t ask for more. There are also lots of barbecue stations along the periphery of the park. So many people came in early as those are free of charge (included in the entrance fee) and the early bird gets the worm, or the barbecue and grilling station. (However, pork is not allowed.)

zabeel park 2

As lunch time neared, the smell of barbecued meat reeked through the park. We were only there to hangout while most families came in very ready with all the picnic paraphernalia! There were tents, folding chairs, water jugs, food, food and more food. They clearly intended to stay there for the whole day.

ice cream sharing at the park

We left when it was 1 pm and the barbecue smell became unbearable! Benjamin was also starting to point to the people eating…

It was a great day at the park today, I thought we should do this often because cool weather like this is very limited.

p and b at spidey net

all aboad

P in fountain

p and b at the play area

Oh and one more great thing about my little humans – the older little human is still young enough to love playing in the park while being old and responsible enough to look out for the smaller human. Then I can just occasionally check on them and take photos but mostly can spend my time lying down in our picnic mat and thinking of a blog post to write later on while munching on nachos.

Do you live in the UAE? What were you up to for the holiday today?

Pristine and tea plantation

Road trip from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Pristine and tea plantation

I’ve been meaning to write about Nuwara Eliya, that charming town located in a mountainous area in Sri Lanka right after we came back from our trip last July (wow, that really sounds like a long time ago) but somehow postponed and postponed it until now. Well, better late than never!

The town of Nuwara Eliya is home to the famous Ceylon tea and the rolling mountains are carpeted of velvety green tea plantations. Since the town is about 1,800 meters above sea level, it’s cool up there and hard to imagine that it is only 180 kilometers away from the hot and humid Colombo.

mackwoods tea factory

The town is also popular for being called “Little England” with beautifully cultured gardens and cottage style buildings like this tea cafe at the Mackwoods Tea Factory along the way to Kandy.

In order to see the breathtaking views in Nuwara Eliya, we had to go on a 7 hour train ride from the capital city of Colombo to Nanu Oya station.

It’s hard to think of going back to Colombo by train again so we hired a private van via Jetwing Travels who was so helpful in arranging everything for us. There was a specific Jetwing Travels advisor with whom I was in touch by email. The communication exchanges, willingness to create the perfect trip (at a price to suit my budget) and attention to detail were excellent. The trip back to the capital ran smoothly and the driver/guide was excellent.

We left our charming Tudor style hotel Jetwing St. Andrews very early at 7 am as we needed to be at our next destination, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage before 2 pm to catch the bathing of the herd at a nearby river – that is one scene we really didn’t like to miss!

We asked the driver is we could make a quick stop at places he think is interesting. Our first stop is the tea factory called Mackwoods. The vast tea plantation is owned privately and called “estates”. This is the Mackwoods Estate. There is a huge sign in the mountains, obviously mimicking the famous Hollywood sign.

fam at mackwoods

We were treated with sights and smell of nature at its best. There was a waterfall down the hill and the husband and Benjamin went down to see it.

maki at mackwoods

waterfalls 1

Pristine and I, together with our guide went inside the cottage for tea sampling.

tea at mackwoods

The tea was a very timely as we are feeling cold early that morning. I made a blunder by forgetting my jacket as we got down from the van and thought I’d just suck it up rather than waste time going back to the parking.

I bought boxes of fresh Ceylon Tea to take home. It’s actually a great souvenir/gift since it’s very light and it was very cheap at the tea factory.

As we traveled further down steep mountain passes snake down to Kandy, I felt a wave of motion sickness. We didn’t know it would be like this and we’re certainly weren’t ready. And we thought traveling by train was worse! I had to ask the driver to stop as I felt I needed some fresh air, immediately!

monkey edge 1

The driver stopped at one bend of the road where other cars have stopped as well. They were all looking to the cliff and we knew why. A group of mountain monkeys were hanging out at the edge of the rock in the cliff.

A closer look at the monkey.

monkey edge 3

Benjamin was fascinated seeing these animals in the wild, in person otherwise, he only saw them in National Geographic episode!

We continued our journey and as the van zigzagged through the mountains, I just kept on breathing deeply and closed my eyes. Benjamin on the other hand was becoming restless. He is very resilient with the challenges we had for this travel, including international flights and 2 seaplane trips but I could feel something’s not right.

benjamin at mackwoods

All of a sudden, the little boy threw up. It was so sudden that my first instinct was to catch the vomit with my hands – I am sure any parent could relate?! I did not want to ruin the rented van’s carpet! Poor little boy!! I cleaned up the mess while battling with severe motion sickness myself.

And the driver said, ONE MORE HOUR of the zigzag roads, Madame…

I had to ask for another ‘fresh air’ break.

We saw the Bathalegala in the horizon. The rock stands as a colossus dwarfing the surrounding landscape. The Colonialists called it ‘The Bible Rock’, as it resembles an open book.

bible rock

The scenes along the way from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy when going by car was as spectacular as the scenes from the train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya by train.

pristine taking photo of waterwall

The winding road descending from the hill country passed through tea plantations, beside the waterfalls that cascade down the hills, and into misty valleys. It was a very memorable experience despite the motion sickness!

You can checkout my Instagram posts about our trip to Sri Lanka with the hashtag #GraceInSriLanka.

Next up: Visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage