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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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





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



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

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


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




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

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


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

Back at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

holiday inn and suites makati

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Where we stayed: The Bellevue Manila


I have a confession: Metro Manila makes me anxious.

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

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

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


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



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

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


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

from the window

from the window 2

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


hotel bed

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


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


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


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


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

outside the hotel

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

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

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

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

Finding a cheap hotel room: HotelsCombined Review

how to find a cheap hotel room

When you travel, how do you book your hotel? Chances are you would say “I book my hotel ONLINE”. I know, I do. Over the last few years, travelers for both business and pleasure have been more likely to book accommodations on either direct hotel websites or online booking sites or price comparison sites. This post is a review of HotelsCombined – I’ve been late to the party and only knew about this recently.


hotels combined main page

HotelsCombined is a hotel search engine where people can get the best deals on hotel accommodations coming from the top travel sites around the world.The top travel sites are all linked here such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Venere, Agoda and many more.The goal of HotelsCombined is to create a one stop for all website that would gather results from other hotel websites and collect them in one place for the traveler to see. This means that one visit to the HotelsCombined website will allow you to see the cheapest prices on hotels around the world, with most major cities and towns covered.

I tried using them for the first time when I looked for an accommodation in Tokyo for an upcoming trip. The main website is pretty straightforward where you can enter your destination, check in and check out dates and number of guests.

Tokyo Japan hotel search

From the search results, I picked a hotel. (In case you may wonder why, I picked this hotel because this is a central Tokyo area but less chaotic, near to the stations and you can easily visit Hama Rikyu Garden, Tsukiji Fish Market and even Tokyo Tower.)

Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo

See how there are different price options even for the same room types with the same amenities like bed sizes and perks like free breakfast. You can then click the “Compare 15 websites” to see more details.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo price comparison

From here, you can click “View Deal” to see the conditions in more detail and HotelsCombined redirects you to the appropriate online booking site that offers that price.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo best deal

So there, I was taken to the online site that had the best deals among the list and made my booking. I was done in a few minutes. At HotelsCombined, finding the best prices for over 800,000 hotels in 120,000 destinations across the globe is guaranteed. Have you used them? If yes, what was your experience with them?

Where we stayed: Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

lobby 1

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

sunset under maqta bridge

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

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

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

lobby 3

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

traders front 1

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


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

Christmas tree on the beach

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

beach side morning


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

room 1

room 2

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

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


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

view from balcony 1

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


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

playground 2

playground 1

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


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


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


afya 2


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

bbq night 2

bbq night 4

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

bbq night 3

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

bbq night 5

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

bbq night 1


great weather

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

walkway to Shangrila

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

walkway to Shangrila 2

water across mosque

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

abra 2

abra 3

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

abra 4


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

santa surprise

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

sunset from the balcony 2

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

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

Where we stayed: Hyatt Place Baniyas Square

hotel from baniyas

There’s a new hotel in old Dubai town under the Hyatt portfolio that retains Hyatt’s quality of service and comfort without the hefty price tag. I get several emails from readers who are planning to come to Dubai and the most popular question of all: “Where is the best place to stay for someone looking for budget hotel?”

Now the answer to that is actually difficult as there are so many factors involved: location, actual budget, brand preference, etc.

We recently stayed at the Hyatt Place Baniyas Square located in central Deira district and this review is for people looking for place to stay in this area but want to cut on accommodation cost. There are not many reviews you can find of this hotel yet, since they just opened less than 2 months ago so I hope this helps!

The hotel’s current offer of AED400 per night might give you more bang for the buck – it’s the newest hotel in the area where most hotels are at least 10 years old.


We stayed for two nights. The hotel was fully booked, as the reception said, till the next week because of two specific reasons: First, it’s in the old part of town; and second, it’s incredibly close to the Baniyas Square subway stop (Green line).

abra on the creek

For anyone wanting to explore the old part of Dubai, this hotel is good as base. But activities won’t be limited to just the old part of Dubai. With the Baniyas Metro Station being only a few meters away from its doorstep, you can go anywhere you like.


The reception is located at the Mezzanine floor of the hotel building so don’t be surprised to see there’s no one at the ground floor, except for two staff who will help you carry your things.

ground floor reception

All guests are asked to proceed to the upper floor for the check in process.

Hyatt Place Baniyas Square

The check in process was swift. There were only two staff at the reception desk, both very friendly and explained the hotel facilities and what makes this hotel “a different place” – the slogan of any Hyatt Place.


The hotel has NO valet parking services. If you’re coming by car, you can stop in front of the hotel to hand over your things to the concierge staff. You should need to make it quick and put on the hazard lights since it’s part of the road (that bends) and just before the traffic signal. It’s worrying to be honest although the traffic is not too busy at this point. Then you need to find a paid parking around the area. The concierge told us about the parking ticket to be refunded, etc but I did not get him quite clearly and I never bothered to ask later on.


This new contemporary hotel features 126 spacious guestrooms, ranging in size from 28 to 33 square metres.

I stayed with the whole family (I don’t do weekends without them so they tagged along), not expecting a luxury weekend because after all, this is a business type of hotel however, I am surprised the room was actually big enough to accommodate 2 adults and 2 children.

bed 1

bed 2

You should have seen the business hotel we squeezed ourselves into, in Tokyo! The standard room had a king size bed and a corner sofa that turns into a bed.

sofa bed

The bathroom is larger than a business hotel type of bathroom I’ve stayed before in Tokyo. The shower is a nice large walk-in shower, and there’s plenty of space to move around when you’re using the sink or toilet. A possible put off though, was that when you turn on the lights in the bathroom, it might wake up other people with you in the room because the light comes through the opaque bathroom glass door.


1. All day dining restaurant


hyatt place all day dining

The room rates include breakfast which had enough variety: breads, fruits, Indian, Arabic, eggs (no live cooking station though), fruit juices, yogurt, oatmeal, corn flakes. Coffee is self service at the coffee machine station


NOTE: The restaurant could get so crowded during breakfast time as most travelers (at least when we were there) wanted to have breakfast before they head out outside in the heat…if you know what time you’ll have breakfast, maybe it’s better to reserve a table. But don’t forget to keep your promise of the time you’ll be there!

We also had dinner at the hotel restaurant because it was too hot and humid outside. There’s not much in the menu but the food was not bad at all and very affordable. Our favorite had been the meat lasagna and the riyash lamb chops.


2. 24/7 Cafe

It’s important to note that there is no room service for this hotel. However, there is a 24 hour cafe where guests can order freshly prepared appetizers, soups and greens, as well as sandwiches and pasta from the 24/7 Gallery menu. Guests can also sample bakery items from the Grab ‘N Go selection; both are available 24 hours a day.


Eating is not really an issue at this hotel. Unless you really are not up to going out, there are so many dining options right at the hotel’s doorstep from small, cheap eateries to restaurants. Al Ghurair Mall is only one station away (stop at Union) if you fancy checking other restaurants or cheaper dining options at the food court.

3. Pool

rooftop pool

The hotel has a pool at the rooftop. It’s not quite big and there’s a small, shallow pool for kids. The water was kept a little bit colder than usual, great to relieve Dubai’s still very hot weather. I wished they’d make it a little warmer though, it was a struggle for me to get in because I don’t do well with cold pools! (After a while you’ll get used to it though, after you recover from the initial shock)

4. 24 hours fitness center (gym)


5. Free Wifi! (I know this should be #1)

Hyatt Place Baniyas Square had complimentary WiFi in all areas of the building, including the rooms (yay!) with speed I can’t complain.


Compared to the old hotels in central Deira, this new hotel should be a treat to guests travelling for work or leisure with friendly hotel staff, basic amenities, clean rooms, comfortable Hyatt grand plush bed, free breakfast and free WiFi. Great location too.

There were minor hiccups during our stay like staff forgetting to reserve our breakfast table on the second day, or concierge at the ground floor not understanding and speaking English well but I am sure this is only because the hotel is new. It’s obvious that the staff is attentive and with full intention to serve the guests better.

Oh, and there’s a mosque near the hotel (just across the street) and the early morning call to prayer woke us up before 6 am but that’s the case in most hotels in the Baniyas area? or in all of Dubai.

All in all our stay as a family was pleasant enough that I could recommend this hotel for those wanting a place to stay that’s clean, safe and in great location and would rather spend money on food or souvenirs rather than tip their wallets for accommodation. Hyatt Place Baniyas Square is great value for money.

To learn more about Hyatt Place Baniyas Square and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Hyatt Place Baniyas Square but all opinions are my own.

Where we stayed: Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

There is no international airport near my home town (yet) and the quickest and most convenient way for us is to fly in and out of Manila. Depending on the flight schedule, I choose connecting flights but the weather during the rainy months of July and August is tricky. Flights could be delayed and even if I choose the earliest flight, if the plane leaves on time, I will end up waiting for hours at the airport in Manila…with kids.

That I didn’t want to happen during our recent travel (going back to the UAE after spending one month in the Philippines).

I chose to leave a day prior to our flight date and stay at a hotel in Manila. There are plenty of hotels to choose from depending on budget, location, reviews and word of mouth. We ended up staying at The Holiday Inn & Suites in Makati because of its proximity to the airport and safety/convenience factor.


I chose this hotel first and foremost for location: it is very near to the airport and it is situated at the heart of the business district of Makati. Also, one very nice advantage of this hotel is that it’s connected to the Glorietta Mall. If you’re travelling with kids or someone who is not familiar with Manila and feel uncomfortable venturing out to walk to the malls or to take a cab, this is actually a huge plus!


I requested for private pick up from the airport, though a little bit costly at PHP1,500 (as of this writing), because it gave me a sense of security. Unfortunately, Manila can be a dangerous place and I’ve heard and read a lot of horror stories of newly landed people (tourists or otherwise) being duped by taxi drivers. The hotel arranged one person with proper identification to meet us right outside the terminal and took us to the car, with full assistance on our luggage. I highly recommend their service!

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati is only less than 4 kilometers from the airport, according to Google maps but with the traffic in Manila, it took us about 30 minutes.


View outside our room at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

I expected to queue at the check in counter for the check in procedures, however, we were directly taken to our rooms where we did our check in. Easy breezy!


Our room at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

We had two queen size beds in the room, one for Pristine and the other for me and Benjamin. We had interesting pillows in the room. They have the words “soft” and “firm” mark so you can select which type of pillow you prefer! If the kids didn’t insist we go to the pool, I think I could have slept in this comfy bed all day!

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

The room was clean and functional with mini bar, complimentary water, coffee and tea. It’s a happy surprise that you would not need adaptors in the electrical outlets on the wall.

* Note that there is no tub in the bathroom but this is never an issue for us.


Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

After a good night’s sleep, the kids woke up early! We were headed down at 7am. Breakfast was served at Flavors Restaurant at the Lobby floor and we were surprised that the restaurant was buzzing with diners at 7am. So different than in Dubai!

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

I am happy with the breakfast buffet selection and there was even pork adobo! Where in the world would you have pork adobo for breakfast?



Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

After breakfast, the kids did not have anything else in mind except going to the pool. They saw it on the night we arrived and couldn’t wait to swim. As it was a weekday when we were there, we had the pool all to ourselves. They have two pools – one small and shallow for kids and one for adults.

Holiday Inn & Suites pool

The hotel also had a well-equipped gym – no reason to skip exercise!

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

We had a very pleasant stay at the Holiday Inn & Suites Makati. The staff are fantastic, always very professional and with a ready smile. Location was unbeatable, connection to the mall made moving around very easy especially it rained when we were there.

Oh and there is free WiFi!

If you are worried about the price that is a little high than other Holiday Inns, take it from me, this hotel is beyond any usual Holiday Inn. (Just think of the savings you can make by not requiring to hire a taxi to go anywhere for food, shopping or entertainment!)

Holiday Inn & Suites Makati

It’s easy to assume a Holiday Inn hotel is mainly for business travellers. However, Holiday Inn & Suites Makati caters for families with children  too with their “Kids Stay & Eat Free” campaign. I would gladly choose to stay at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati whenever we find ourselves back in Manila soon. And you should too!

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

We were guests at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati but all opinions are my own.

Radisson Blu Fujairah

Where we stayed: Radisson Blu Resort, Fujairah

Radisson Blu Fujairah

The modest entrance at the end of the long, narrow driveway of Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah would not wow guests upon arrival. It actually looks mysterious and will get you asking, “What lies beyond that simple entrance?”

Well friends, after spending two nights here, we found out you shouldn’t judge a hotel by its outside appearance.

We were in Fujairah some days back for some rest and relaxation – left Dubai on a Thursday night after work and spent the weekend at this only Emirate facing the Gulf of Oman. We’ve explored the city of Fujairah before so we decided to stay at a beach property this time. Think 500 meters of beautiful private beach and all rooms facing the shore. Inviting, yes.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of waking up to this.

rad blu room

*Photo taken from their Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah’s official website


Radisson Blu Fujairah is located in Dibba, Fujairah, about 90 minutes from Dubai if you take the Sharjah-Dibba Road. However, we didn’t take that road because we left at night and there’s a patch of that road where there is no center barrier and many trucks passing through. We took the new Dubai-Fujairah highway, the one that gets you to the rolling mountains of Fujairah in forty minutes, then went north to Dibba.

It was already late when we left Dubai, around 8 pm so we expected we’ll arrive at 10pm max. However, we encountered bumps along the way with the youngest passenger throwing up inside the car! Being a mother, I shouldn’t freak out with this scenario but I still freaked out. My clothes were soiled with sour smelling stuff so we had to stop at the nearest gas stand to clean up before proceeding to our journey.

The new road to Fujairah is relatively straight but after that, there were too many roundabouts, humps on the road (to slow down traffic) and congestion. It must have triggered Benjamin’s motion sickness.

We arrived at nearly midnight after that ordeal.


Check in was fast and smooth. We were really already very tired and it was late and the two staff at the reception did their best so we can go to our room as soon as possible. We were also asked to choose from a warm dinner menu. How kind! The warm dinner menu is offered to all package guests


We had two interconnecting rooms – one with king size bed and another with two semi-double beds. This is great for families staying with children. Spacious enough for the children to run around!

king bed room


We have a bed and pillows quality checker with us and she said, “nice!”

pristine in bed

Our warm in-room dinner arrived shortly. This is actually very timely because the kids got hungry after that long ride (and one kid got especially hungry after he emptied his stomach from that throwing up session in the car!).

dinner collage

We slept very comfortably and though we went to bed past midnight already, I woke up very early…because my body clock is cursed/blessed like that. I wake up at almost the same time, almost everyday, no matter where I am!

But it pays to wake up early at this side of town. I was rewarded with this view from our room balcony.


sunrise 2

I tiptoed into the balcony making no noise as much as I can so as not to wake Benjamin up. But of course that did not work. A few snaps of the beautiful sunrise later, he was awake and looking for me.

glass sunrise

ben gm

What a lovely morning we woke up to – there had been days of sandstorm/dust storm lately and the staff had told us they hoped the sun would shine the next day and the weather clear. Well, the staff’s prayers were answered!


breakfast view

Breakfast is served at Breeze all-day dining restaurant. The servers had a ready smile and were quick enough to serve coffee or tea and ask us of our needs. The breakfast buffet was not bad although some may expect more variety. One thing we also noticed is the lack of rice option in the buffet spread whether it’s breakfast or lunch. I guess that can be attributed to the main patrons of the hotel which are Russians and Germans (at least during our stay there)?

After breakfast, we walked to the beach to test the waters.

radisson blu fujairah

Many people had the same thing in mind. We love the feel of fine, white sand in our feet and the water was calm and very clean. The private beach stretch of the hotel makes this property really charming.


How was the water? “Can we swim mama?”, asked my toddler. Even if the sun was already warm (actually hot at midday), the sea water was still cold. Not many people went for a swim so we headed to the pool.

We’ve been eyeing the pool from our room balcony. The staff said it’s temperature controlled, so grateful for that!

Radisson Blu Fujairah Pool

Radisson Blu Fujairah Pool

p in pool

pool collage 2

What’s with kids and water? They never ever wanted to leave!

SPRUNCH = Spa + Lunch

Friday brunch at Breeze restaurant was a lavish affair with international dishes and a huge array of desserts. But because this is the first photo I took of the Friday brunch spread does not mean this is the only thing I love (heh).

I love brunches that has special dedicated sections for kids. Because, you know, with a toddler around, it is difficult to even hold a one minute conversation with your spouse.

kids area brunch

Radisson Blu Fujairah brunch

We were introduced to the concept of “sprunch” or spa + lunch package at Raddison Blu Fujairah. That’s free 15 minutes of neck or shoulder massage at the O2 spa. Also, the sprunch deal entitles you to 15% off any spa service. Sounds like your thing? I know, I love massages too!

The husband and I booked our short spa session after our filling lunch so guess what happened next? We were all knocked out and had a 3 hour nap!!


We had two options for dinner: one at the beach side (romantic dinner under the stars, sand on your feet) and another was the barbecue buffet dinner at the pool side. There were plenty of this:


We are not really fan of seafood because the two kids and I are allergic to it, except for fish but they really looked fresh and tasted good according to the husband. You can choose whatever you like from the array of fresh shrimps, fish, mussels, crabs and lobsters and the chef will grill it for you. Beef, mutton and chicken are also available along with salads and dessert.

Then there’s a live band that plays all sorts of songs. You can even request a song. Any song, no judging!


seafood collage

The kids loved the dinner setting and the weather was just perfect for eating outside at night.


After dinner, we went up to our room thinking how to cope up with the fact that we will be leaving this wonderful place the next day.

Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah’s entrance may be modest but the experience is stellar. Prices are reasonable, all the staff from towel boys to cleaners to restaurant and reception are very helpful and courteous make staying in this hotel very worth your time.

sun loungers 1

sun loungers 2

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

We were guests at Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah but all opinions are my own, as always.

Waking up to glorious Dubai winter weather

outside view

I know it’s already March and Dubai’s winter is long gone. That’s why this post. We are going to relive the lovely days of winter…just because we can. Right now, the weather is still kind to us desert dwellers these days. The mornings and afternoons are still cool and middays are still very forgiving. However, as sure as day comes after night, we know the dreaded desert summer is just around the corner!

We stayed at The Address Dubai Marina back in December, when Dubai offered the perfect weather: clear, blue skies and chilly temperatures. But the huge 50 meter pool was temperature controlled and it was awesome.

pool at The Address Dubai Marina

We woke up very excited for the weekend to start, I mean who doesn’t get excited of the possibility of all day relaxation and fun? But first, breakfast!

breakfast Collage

There are breakfasts and then there are breakfasts at Mazina restaurant! Breakfasts at Mazina is at a different level. The spread  was anything and everything you could want – all sorts of food, fresh cooked eggs in live cooking station, very fresh bread and pastries, the full English if wanted and even pork cold cuts. I could write hundreds of words how I love having breakfast here but a short, unbiased opinion would be: It might be difficult for you to appreciate breakfasts from other hotels once you’ve been to breakfast at Mazina. It’s that extensive, it’s that GOOD, period.

By the way, if you are a family with children, a lovely addition to Mazina’s lovely offerings is the Saturday Generation Creation Brunch every 3rd Saturday of the month. The best brunch for families.

After breakfast, it was time for the pool. The sun was also already up, making it not too scary to jump into the water. Although we know the water is temperature controlled (read: warm), there’s that notion that it might be cold because of the cool blue color!

ben ready for pool

Benjamin is more than ready to take a dip! And surely enough, he loved it!

ben edge of pool

Jumeirah Beach Residence behind us. We really loved our time in this infinity pool – the clearest pool water we’ve ever seen.  It has also a pool side lounge and restaurant called Shades that serve refreshing drinks and lovely food.

fam in pool

My sister was also with us that time. I brought my Catalyst waterproof case for my phone. This is a great investment if you love taking underwater photos!

ariane underwater shot

I can’t rave about the pool at The Address Dubai Marina enough – but I am not alone. Ahlan has ranked it as the best pool in Dubai!

For more information about The Address Dubai Marina and its latest offerings, please check out their website.

We were guests at The Address Dubai Marina, however, all opinions are mine.

Novotel Hotel Fujairah

Where we stayed: Novotel Hotel Fujairah

Novotel Hotel Fujairah

We spent a lovely two days at Fujairah over the weekend to relax and unwind from the busy and hectic (and sometimes exhausting) life in Dubai. Fujairah is the only emirate among the seven emirates of the UAE that do not lie in the Arabian Gulf. Its coast line is at the Gulf of Oman. The last time we visited Fujairah was already five long years ago so this trip was long overdue.

There are so many hotels in Fujairah, from beach hotels to city hotels. We stayed for two nights at Novotel Hotel Fujairah. And here’s my review of this hotel.

Novotel Hotel Fujairah is located at Hamad Bin Abdullah Road, Fujairah, very close to the city center, just off the new E84 road.

We heard of this new road linking Dubai to Fujairah that promises shorter time and smoother travel. The last time we’ve been to Fujairah, all I remember was long travel and a pretty dangerous one because there’s a highway strip that has no barrier in the center – it can be scary if only a thin white line separates opposite traffic.

Now with the new E84 road known as Sheikh Khalifah Bin Zayed Road, it only took us an hour and 15 minutes from our house in Al Qusais to the hotel. The new road linking Dubai to Fujairah has motorists living the dream. Imagine there are people commuting from Dubai to Fujairah on a daily basis because of this road!

It’s impossible to miss Novotel Fujairah when you enter the city center of the Emirate. It’s that tall building with neon blue lights (if you’re arriving at night).

Being a new hotel (just a year old!), I am impressed by the warm and welcoming service we received from the time we got off our car when we arrived until the moment we left. The staff at the hotel and the restaurants were attentive to our needs and always went out of their way to serve us and the other customers in the best way they can.

The staff were so sweet to remember our names too, including the children! I know they instantly felt like superstars on the time we checked out.

I must admit, when I hear Novotel or Ibis (of the Accor group of hotels), I used to think – ah, business hotel. I seriously thought we would be the only family staying there and Benjamin could disturb the tired business men sleeping in the rooms (Benjamin has a habit of singing loudly in the hallways!). However, when we arrived, we were surprised with the number of families with children staying in the hotel, too!

We stayed in a suite room because it is caters more to our family size. And yep, we loved the space!

suite room bedroom

The suite room was perfect for us (2 adults and 2 children) as it had a separate receiving room and bedroom, that meant more space to move around. The hotel also provided an extra bed for our 11 year old daughter and even then, the room did not feel cramped. Also, I must mention that the bed was so nice and comfortable (which honestly I did not expect).

This is when you first enter the hotel room.

Novotel Fujairah suite room

I can’t get a proper shot without a little human getting in the way. There is a mini bar and a small receiving area with sofa.

The room had the basic amenities; the suite room had a separate shower and bathtub which we really like, especially with a toddler who loves to take long baths in the tub. One of my favorite amenities is the WiFi (is WiFi called an amenity? It is now.). All the rooms have fast and free wireless internet (YAY!) which makes it easier for guests on business or pleasure to what they needed to do. Mine would be to update my social media platforms of what we’ve been up to!

If you have not brought your laptop and need to work on something with a bigger screen than your smart phone, you can always go to the lobby.

Hotel Novotel Fujairah

Another thing to be happy about when staying as a family was the pool. Another unexpected treat – it was big! There were many children in the pool even if the weather was a bit chilly when we got there. The water is temperature controlled but the wind was strong during our stay so we didn’t get to swim at all. Hopefully, next time, we can!

Novotel Hotel Fujairah pool

Breakfast is served at Flavours restaurant, the all dining restaurant at the ground floor. Ample selection, we couldn’t complain of anything. Thursday night dinner was at Il Centro at adjacent Ibis Hotel for Mexican night. Staple Mexican food (guacamole however was missing). Live cooking station also available.

Friday night was Indian night at Flavours when the restaurant turns to a bustling place of Indian food lovers. The scent of the spices will let you know Indian night is full on and it’s time to forget about diet.

Indian nights

There are lots of Indian food available on the buffet but I just chose a few for my first plate.

indian food

My favorite Indian sweets on parade: kaju katli, burfi, etc.

indian sweets

Friday was international brunch at Il Centro with DJ spinning some good music. Live cooking station also available.

il centro

We loved the food at Il Centro and wish it was closer. It’s definitely cheaper in Fujairah (or should I say, the prices in Dubai is just too inflated!). If you’re driving to Fujairah and get hungry, a stop over at Il Centro is worth the time and money.

Overall we had a very good stay. We had a very peaceful short family getaway away from the big city. The kids thoroughly loved the space of the suite room (highly recommended for families) and because this is not Dubai, you don’t have to be intimidated by the word “suite”. The location is near to everything from supermarkets to pharmacies. The beach is near too. We visited the Fujairah International Marine Club which is a short drive from the hotel and explored the coast of Fujairah (more about it in the next post!).


We unexpectedly loved our stay in Fujairah and highly recommend to anyone looking to get away from the fast paced life of Dubai and would love a change of scenery. Novotel Hotel Fujairah comes with my high recommendation for being a budget and family friendly hotel that delivers – nice, clean rooms with a comfy bed and WiFi connection, great location and customer oriented service staff.

To learn more about Novotel Hotel Fujairah and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Novotel Hotel Fujairah but all opinions are my own, as always. You can see more photos of our Fujairah trip on my Instagram (@sandierpastures) with hashtag #GraceInFujairah.