Singapore

I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to watch Crazy Rich Asians – even after Ryan constantly nagging at me to watch it for so long! Anyway, it didn’t disappoint and watching it brought back all the emotions I felt when visiting Singapore myself a few months ago … and reminded me that I’m yet to write a blog about it!

So, slightly delayed, but I’ve finally got round to writing about our (very short) time in Singapore and all that we managed to cram into our visit!

Day One

We landed from Langkawi into the famous Changi Airport at around midday and, as we travelled lightly, we scurried out with our hand-luggage and wasted no time in the airport. We had read online about the budget / comfort taxis so it was a little disappointing when the airport staff tried scooting us into the higher end, expensive taxis.

We took the little budget taxi and raced to check into our hotel the Pan Pacific. We contemplated staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (and not just for the rooftop pool) but we decided that for the cost of the hotel we just wouldn’t make our money’s worth as we didn’t intend on spending any time at the hotel as there was too much exploring to be done! The Pan Pacific was a lovely 5* hotel, although it had more of a corporate feel than holiday, it was in a great location within walking distance to Marina Bay Sands Hotel and it has an MRT station less than a minute walk away.

Ce La Vi

We headed straight to Marina Bay Sands and up to Ce La Vi. We landed in Singapore the day after my birthday and so Ryan treated me to the three course lunch with wine pairings. The food, and wine, was delicious and the staff were so friendly they made me a birthday card with a Polaroid photo of Ryan and I, sang happy birthday and prepared a dessert with gold flakes and my name! (Definitely service of a 5* hotel!) We had amazing views across the Singapore Strait and could see some of the Indonesian islands from up there. After we finished our food we headed round to the poolside and sat overlooking the Marina with all of the skyscrapers whilst drinking more wine. I must admit that out of the two sides of the hotel, my favourite view was across the Strait, it overlooked the Gardens by the Bay and the views were just breathtaking. Living in Dubai I’m lucky enough to have a view of the Marina and skyscrapers as soon as I open my curtains in the morning, so it’s nice to see some greenery and nature.

Gardens by the Bay

Its not often that we go on holiday and do super touristy things but I was so excited to visit the Gardens by the Bay. I had seen so many pictures on Instagram and read up on a few blogs but I did not expect the trees to be so tall!

We walked around the gardens for a little while and then headed to the domes. We started in the cloud dome which was amazing! It’s incredible to think that they have replicated and created a natural oasis inside what is essentially a huge green house! I was shocked at how many different species of trees and plants were housed in there, let alone the waterfall cascading through the centre and the naturally formed clouds on the higher floors.

We then headed across to the flower dome which was lovely but by this point we were exhausted – and had done a fair bit of walking! We had purchased a joint entry ticket but didn’t realise how long we would spend in the Cloud Dome and would probably have been better to just buy a single entry ticket.

Level 33

We went to meet one of Ryan’s friends for dinner and drinks and he took us to Level 33, a bar in the Marina Bay Financial District with insane sunset views of Marina Bay Sands.

Usually we are the ones meeting people on holiday in Dubai and showing them amazing bars and restaurants for dinner so it was nice to have the shoe on the other foot for a change.

Day Two

Orchard Road

We started the day by taking the MRT to Orchard road and went for a lush breakfast at Wild Honey. We would never have found this little cafe but it came highly recommended from Ryan’s friend and it didn’t disappoint – and we do love our brekkies!

China Town

The second stop of the day was China Town. China Town was crazy and full of life! There were market stalls popped up all around, we visited a few temples and stopped to have lunch at one of the Michelin Star Street food shops. I could have spent hours just walking around the markets and taking in the hustle and bustle of daily life there.

Little India

Our next stop was Little India – we just took the MRT between all of our stops, it’s super easy to use and all of the stops are written in English, it’s by far the easiest way to get around the city.

Little India was much quieter than China Town but we still loved walking around the colourful streets 💛

Raffles hotel

Our final stop of the day was Raffles Hotel for a legendary Singapore Sling cocktail! Although the hotel was under renovation the Long Bar is still open (as is the gift shop where we spent a small fortune!)

The cocktails were lovely and the decor of the bar made me feel as if we were in the 1950’s it was a great experience. We also ate our body weight in monkey nuts!

Clarke’s Quay

We spent our final evening at Clarke’s Quay and ate in a lovely Asian restaurant called Little Saigon which was an Asian street food concept but the tables were sat slightly over the Quay which was lovely. We walked around and sat down at one of the bars right on the river bank and stayed there for a few hours drinking and watching the world go by.

Day Three

On our final day in Singapore we met up with my friend Ingmar who has lived in Singapore for the majority of his life. I met Ingmar when I first went travelling to Thailand at the age of 19 and we have stayed in touch through Facebook etc. since. It was lovely to see him as we had 7 years of life to catch up on!

Ryan and I then headed to Sentosa Island to spend our final day on the beach. We were unsure at first whether Sentosa, as a man made island, would feel like the Palm but actually we didn’t consider this once we were there. We took the tram across from the mainland which was only SGD$8 each for a return journey and extremely easy.

I couldn’t help but see the similarities between Singapore and Dubai. A financial hub, bustling city life but with the 5* hotels, beaches and all year weather (although I am aware at how lucky we were that it didn’t rain during our time in Singapore!) but the one thing I feel that Singapore has over Dubai is the nature and the deep rooted culture. My favourite part of our trip was spending time in China Town and drinking along the river bank in Clarke Quay.

Although indeed we were only there for little over two days, I have fallen in love with the place and I’m pining to return, whether for a holiday or permanently, who knows?!

Our first month with Privilee

We have just finished our first month with Privilee and it’s fair to say it has had a huge impact on our spare time for the better! Not only have we been able to make the most of the 5* hotel facilities on the weekends, we have also been making the most of the gym access during the week days (it’s taken a year but yes, I have finally gone back to the gym!)

Here are some of the highlights from our first month on Privilee:

W Hotel Dubai Palm

W for “Wow”! Upon arriving at the hotel it definitely has the wow factor of a 5* hotel. The Reception staff were really helpful and guided us to the separate Privilee desk which allowed for a seamless check in of our Privilee cards. We headed up to the first floor to visit the gym and were blown away by the view from the outside training area. The gym has views of the W Hotel pool and beach area (which is breath taking on its own), as well as views of the Atlantis, the soon to be Royal Atlantis, the Palm and the Marina. The equipment in the gym is high-tech and the treadmill had access to news channels, Youtube and many more channels. We also loved the kettle bells which were designed to look like gorillas!

9ea1f423-af10-473c-a404-e7597464f436

We still couldn’t get over the views from the outside training area so decided to do some abs workouts outside whilst taking in the view – honestly the views actually motivated me to train for longer! We showered and changed before heading down to relax on the beach. The only downside of the gym facilities would be that the changing rooms are relatively small and there is only one shower in the changing room.

The pool area was pretty busy by the time we got down there, approx. 10.30am but this may have been due to the fact that the top pool was closed for brunch and also with it being opening weekend on Privilee. But there were still plenty of sun beds down the beach and we managed to get the last cabana. The hotel staff came over instantly with two complimentary bottles of water and apples!

We opted for sandwiches and chips for lunch, I had the chicken and avocado sandwich whilst Ryan had the Whole Cow (hard earned from the earlier workout) and the food came quickly, fresh and very tasty. We were pleasantly surprised with the bill at the end of the day, appreciating the Prviliee discount of 20% on food as well.

Overall, we had a lovely daycation at W Hotel and felt like it was the perfect way to escape a busy week in Dubai. This is definitely a hotel we will recommend to friends and family – along with the Privilee card.

Address Hotel Dubai Marina

Sticking with our weekend gym routine we decided to visit the Address Hotel Dubai Marina on Saturday morning to take advantage of the gym facilities (as we heard that this gym also has a great view) and we were not disappointed. The gym itself is much bigger than we expected with the 5 treadmills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines lined up along the windows with excellent views of the Marina.

img_2407

The staff were friendly and helpful by showing us where to exchange our Privilee cards for access cards. Sadly the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t stay to make the most of the pool facilities but, having caught a glimpse of the, we will definitely return!

Waldorf Astoria the Palm

When I first arrived at the hotel the staff were extremely helpful with signing in and swapping my Privilee card for a hotel guest access card. I headed down to the gym for a quick cardio and abs session before showering and beelining straight to the beach!

I really did feel like I was on holiday for the day. The Waldorf has such a relaxing, family holiday vibe that I pitched up on the beach with a book and barely moved for 7 hours!

The hotel offers a large family friendly swimming pool which was a buzz of activity with children playing. They also have a separate adults only pool with a Jacuzzi which was  a lot calmer and more relaxing.

Bounty Beets Breakfast Spot

Has anyone else ever chosen a breakfast spot just because it looks cute on the gram?! Well I did and I’m so glad that the food was just as lovely as the décor. Bounty Beets is located in the ground floor in Le Meridien (next to the Westin) and is the perfect place for a girly breakfast date! The best thing about it though, is that with Privilee you receive 25% off the total bill!

Habtoor Grand

We had such a relaxing day at the Habtoor Grand, the hotel is lovely and the pool area is large with slides in the pool which is great for kids. We, however, headed straight down to the beach to switch off and unwind. This end of JBR beach is lovely because it’s much quieter and you can take in all of the amazing views of the Marina / JBR skyline.

Playa Nomade

This was my first time visiting Playa Nomade and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We arrived at 10 (when it opened) but it didn’t get busy until around 1pm. So we chose a bed by the pool (with easy access in as it was quite hot) and chilled for the day. We treated ourselves to a pizza for lunch and some strawberry daqs in the afternoon (all of which tasted even better with 25% off!)

Fidelity Fitness JLT

Fidelity Fitness is the newest gym to be added to Privilee’s ever growing list of partners. It’s located in Almas Tower in JLT which is few minutes walk from the JLT metro stop which is perfect going on the way home from work. The great thing about Fidelity Fitness is that all of their classes are free to Privilee members! They have a huge timetable of spin classes which run throughout the day every day of the week. I decided to try out the TRX class which was a tough workout but I really enjoyed it. The gym itself is huge and is spread over three rooms and has a swimming pool!

Now that the weather in Dubai is heating up and we are just about to enter Ramadan, I plan on using Privilee to the maximum on weekends and making the most of the pools (and spas) throughout the summer months!

Cheers, Privilee

Beautiful Langkawi

Those who know me know just how much I love Asia and the island life, so our trip to KL and Malaysia last month was my dream combination. As you know, we spent the weekend in KL (you can read about it here if not) and then took an short flight across to Langkawi. Oh. My. Goodness. Langkawi (cue heart eye emoji). Langkawi is up there with one of my favourite islands I have ever visited and here is why:

The Island

Langkawi island is divided up into different areas which four main tourist areas: Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Pantai Kok and Daitay Bay. When researching places to stay in Langkawi and reading different blogs about the island, I got the feeling that the different areas were similar to the Gili Islands:

  • Pantai Cenang: Known for being a popular tourist spot with the busiest beach town on Langkawi Island, housing cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and duty-free outlets along its picturesque beach strip. It is also home to high-end resorts, chalets and budget hotels with views of the gorgeous sea. At night, it is transformed into a busy nightlife hub as visitors mingle with locals and enjoy cheap drinks with their feet in the sand at beachfront bars and lounges.

I got the feeling this would be like Gili T / Gili Air.

  • Pantai Tengah: Known for being aimed at moderate to wealthy travellers with good dining and people looking for a more laidback, calmer nightlife scene alongside a good range of restaurants, affordable spa centres.

I got the feeling this would be more like Gili Meno

  • Pantai Kok: Known for its peaceful vibe, surrounded by lush rainforest. Not a great deal of nightlife but calm and good dining options.

I got the feeling this would be more like Ubud

So after reading various blogs and articles (check out this easy read on Langkawi tourist info) we decided on Pantai Cenang due to the reviews on its gorgeous beach and great dining options.

IMG_0656

The Beach

One of the absolute highlights of Panti Cenang is the gorgeous beach. Pure white sand and crystal clear water, it really was paradise. Every morning after breakfast we would go for a walk along the beach front and see an array of sea life from starfish, crabs, hermit crabs (my fave) and sadly a few washed up jellyfish. But the morning walks along the beach were the is perfect way to start the day – and to catch a good tan as well.

We stayed at the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa which has a private beach attached that was lovely and peaceful. But as you walk further along the beach it becomes full of life and buzzing with a mixture of tourists and locals. There’s a great selection of water sports and vendors offering parasailing and island hopping trips. There is also a selection of bars and restaurants that offer casual beach dining and fire spinning shows in the evening.

IMG_0407.JPG

The Food

We were in our element with all of the fresh seafood on offer in Langkawi. A lot of the restaurants have live seafood stations were you can choose lobster, crab and fish caught locally. These are a selection of our favourite restaurants in Langkawi:

  • Orkid Ria Seafood Restaurant – this restaurant is rated as one of the best seafood restaurants on the island and the queue out the door speaks for itself!
  • Islandish Restaurant – another restaurant with live seafood which was just as tasty as Orchid Ria but much better value for money.
  • India Palace – honestly, some of the best Indian food I have eaten in my life! We ordered a selection of samosas, poppadoms, butter chicken served in clay pot and prawn biriyani. The food was amazing.
  • The Cliff – this restaurant had absolutely breath-taking views at sunset with a very romantic vibe. The staff were extremely friendly and the food was delicious (I would absolutely recommend the chicken in cashew nut sauce YUM).

The Activities

Half day island hopping tour

We booked on to the half day island hopping tour with one of the local vendors in the town (I can’t remember the name but there were several stalls popped up that offer the same trips). We tried to barter but the prices were standard at each vendor and we paid RM 65 per person for the tour. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the far end of the beach where all of the boats were moored up in the sea but we were required to wade through to be able to get on the boat.

The first stop on our trip was Pregnant Maiden Lake. We were told that the island was named as this because it looks like a pregnant lady laying down …. we will just take their word for it to get to the lake we had to climb several hundred steps up and then down to the lake but the views were absolutely beautiful once we made it down. There are a range of activities there including kayaking and peddle boats but we decided to just sit on the edge of the pontoon and relax for the hour.

IMG_0581 2

The next stop was to see the eagles feeding. I didn’t realize that they tempted the eagles in with crab meat but it was a crazy sight to see them swooping down at such a speed so close to the boat.

The final stop on the tour was the beautiful Pulau Beras Basah island. The beach was perfect and we just walked around and found a spot to sit and relax. And we really did relax until the monkeys came and began trying to steal everyone’s food and bags! We stayed well clear of them but they managed to get their hands on the crisps and noodles of the couple next to us!

IMG_0635

The trip was actually a lot more physically intense than we realized and there was a lovely little lady called Patricia, who we made friends with on the trip, who at 82 struggled with getting on and off the boat but still got off at every stop on the tour to enjoy her day! What an inspiring woman.

Lunch in the padi fields

The Laman Padi rice fields were located just out the back of our hotel so we decided to visit one lunch time. We sat in the fields in one of the little wooden huts which was such a beautiful setting to have lunch. We ordered the sharing platter with beef rendang, rice, soup, prawn crackers and a salad. The beef rendang was lovely and the food was served on a banana leaf which felt really authentic. The food was really reasonably priced costing approximately 50RM for the sharing platter.

You can also do a tour of the fields and visit the rice museum which seemed a very popular activity with the tourists coming into Pantai Cenang.

IMG_0510

Other activities in Langkawi

The island has so much to offer and we didn’t get the chance to experience all of the wonderful trips and activities that we wanted to! We had read about the beautiful Seven Wells Waterfall that is located on the north west side of the island. We also wanted to take the cable car ride up to the peak of the mountains, we had been told that you can view the whole island from up there!

We left Langkawi feeling so relaxed and refreshed that we were ready to tackle our next crazy Asian city : Singapore!

IMG_0495

Exploring KL

As we landed in Malaysia I was so excited to start exploring my 34th country and to finally be back in South East Asia. We were really impressed by KLIA airport – it was huge!

Getting there

The flight to KL from Dubai is around 7 hours plus the 4 hour time difference, so we left Dubai at 9pm and arrived in KL at 8am the next morning.

We read online (this site was super helpful) that it is relatively easy to get a taxi so we headed down to the lower ground where there’s an Airport Taxi kiosk. You have to pay 2RM (approx. 40p) for a ticket and you choose whether you want a budget taxi, Premier Limo, Super Luxury or Family Service taxis. We opted for budget as it was the cheapest option but nevertheless, it was comfortable and had AC (and to be honest we slept most of the drive to central KL anyway). The drive from the airport is around 50 minutes however there was so much traffic – we must have hit the morning rush hour or something – so it ended up taking close to 2 hours! Our hotel had quoted 150RM for a transfer from the airport but we paid our budget taxi 55RM including tolls and a tip.

Accommodation

Kuala Lumpur had a variety of hotels ranging from luxury 5* to budget hostels and motels. We decided to stay at Traders Hotel (part of the Shangri La brand) and we were sold on the view from the hotel room of the Petronas Towers. Right from checking in the staff were extremely helpful and even though we arrived at 11am our room was prepared and ready for us. The concierge were also so helpful with recommendations of things to do and getting around the city.

Traders Hotel run a free shuttle bus every 15 minutes to Suria KLCC mall (but it is only a short walk). It is also situated in front of KLCC park which was lovely to walk through and sit on the grass for some down time. The only downside of the hotel was that the swimming pool was indoors whereas other hotels nearby, such as the Mandarin Oriental, W Hotel and Four Seasons, all had amazing outdoor pools. But we didn’t intend on spending a huge amount of time at the hotel during this trip so we didn’t mind too much.

Sightseeing

We got to our hotel checked in, dropped our bags, got changed and we’re out of the door within 30 minutes ready to explore with my strict itinerary for the day!

  • Thean Hou Temple

We jumped in a taxi and went straight to the Chinese Thean Hou Temple. Our taxi driver explained that it’s quite difficult to flag taxis down in that area and so left the meter running and waited for us to look around. The temple was beautiful with hundreds of red lanterns, ornate statues and flowers all around.

  • Sri Mariamman Temple

A driver then took us to Sri Mariamman temple which is the oldest Hindu Temple located in China Town. We decided to leave the taxi and continue exploring by foot. We had been with our taxi driver for approximately an hour and a half and the meter only totaled 65RM.

  • Petaling Street Market

Petaling Street Market in China Town was a crazy array of shopping and street food and it was bustling with tourists and locals combined. We spent an hour or so just walking around and seeing what all of the stalls had to offer before heading back to the hotel to chill whilst admiring the amazing view of the Petronas Towers again from our room!

  • Batu Caves

We flagged down a budget taxi that drove us around 20 minutes to the Batu Caves which are located slightly out of the city centre. It’s free to enter the Batu Caves and you do not require any tickets or tour guides. You do need to dress respectfully but you can rent scarves / long skirts from the base of the steps.

We climbed the 272 stairs up, relatively quickly I must say, and explored the inside of the caves and the shrines. We saw the infamous monkeys hiding out inside the temple scouring for any goodies they could steal from the people inside! One monkey got hold of a mans bag which, to the monkeys delight, contained a coconut and we watched, amazed, as the monkey started smashing the coconut on a rock to open it!

We then descended down the 272 stairs and found out little taxi driver waiting to take us back to the city!

  • KL Canopy Walk

This was another nice (free) activity to do in the city. The canopy walk runs through a protected garden area in the centre of the city and you walk up several steps (not a great choice post Batu Caves, but we still had fun) and the canopies guide you through the tops of the trees, heading towards the Manara KL tower.

We decided not to enter the Manara Tower as there was a huge queue and entry charge up to the viewing platform. So instead we walked (a long walk) back to our hotel, stopping off in the KLCC gardens first.

  • KLCC Gardens

The gardens are located out the back of the Petronas Towers (between the back of the towers and the back of our hotel, conveniently). We stopped in one of the supermarkets located on the ground floor of the KLCC Suria Mall to get some drinks and snacks and sat out in the park, taking in the view and lovely weather.

We really enjoyed exploring KL but found that a few days was enough to cover off our itinerary. If you would like to read more about dining in KL, check out my other blog here.

Exploring Old Dubai

I used to save taking a trip down to Old Dubai as something to do with guests when they’re over on holiday. But lately, it seems I have swapped Friday Brunches, for Friday adventures – and I like it!

Dubai is such a vibrant, advanced and modern city to live in, but I love heading down to the Creek to experience the “old Dubai” and see some of the amazing variety of culture that this city has to offer. So, if you are planning on taking a trip down to the Dubai Creek soon, here are some of my favourite things to do there:

Gold Souk / Spice Market

Obviously this has to be first on my list, because diamonds 686b56bc-a370-4c2e-8483-70f9304dbd09really are a girl’s best
friend! I love visiting the Gold Souk to window shop and also barter on jewellery to haggle the price down. I recently visited to search for my wedding jewellery, albeit some ambitious wedding jewellery, but it was still fun!

Just around the corner from the Gold Souk is the Spice Market. All of the shops sell a range of local and imported spices at great prices (I should copyright that slogan).

Abra across the Dubai Creek

Previously, if someone told me I could purchase something in Dubai for AED 1 (=£0.20 /  $0.27) I would not have believed them. But you can take one of the small abra boats across the Creek for AED 1 for a return trip!

img_3519

Visit the Iranian Mosque

When I visited the Iranian Mosque I saw just how beautiful it was from the outside, but sadly, we hadn’t planned the timing of our trip very well and arrived at prayer time on a Friday! So the mosque, and car park, was actually packed full to the brim so we were unable to enter and explore inside.

I would therefore advise visiting the mosque on any other day of the week and also try to avoid prayer times! One important thing to note is that when visiting this mosque you should be sure to cover arms / legs fully. I was also advised to take a headscarf to enter the mosque – but sadly didn’t need to use it on this occasion!

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood allows you to see what traditional life was like in Old Dubai hundreds of years ago. You can walk around the narrow streets which are full of pop up shops, cafes, art galleries and even a boutique hotel.

You can find out more about it here: https://dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/Al-Fahidi-Historical-Neighbourhood.aspx

Lunch at the Arabian Tea House

I’m getting hungry just writing this part of the post! The Arabian Tea House is located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood so it’s a great place to stop and refuel. The food at the Arabian Tea House is traditional Emirati food so you can be sure to find a selection of breads, hummus, meze, biryani, shawarma and grilled meats. The food is delicious and really reasonably priced but, because of that, the queue is out of the door! If you are able to make a reservation here in advance, I would definitely advise doing so.

Ride on the Dubai Metro

This may seem like a strange one, but Dubai Metro is one of the top things to do in Dubai on Trip Advisor… I live in the Marina and a taxi up to the Creek would cost around AED 90 whereas the metro is AED 10 (in Gold Class or AED 5 in normal) so it’s a no brainer! If you’re looking for a cheap day out then I would definitely advise jumping on the metro. You can use the Journey Planner to help plan your trip.

My bucket list – 30 things before 30

So my birthday is approaching, which makes me happy because we get to go on holiday, and I will be turning 27 which is one step closer to 30. So it got me thinking of all the things I would love to do before I’m 30, given that I have three years to make it happen, and it’s prompted me to write a bucket list!

I have cheated a little bit, by including five things I have already done, but I definitely consider these to be bucket list moments of my life over the past few years, so they deserve to be included on the list. I know some of these items on my list are absolutely once in a lifetime holidays and experiences, and honestly, I don’t expect to be able to tick them all off in the next three years, so this might end up being a rolling bucket list of forty things to do before I’m 40!

But, here is my absolute dream bucket list of thirty things to do before I’m 30:

  1. Hot air balloon ride

Those of you who read my blogs will know this is something I have already ticked off, and it definitely was up there with one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was lucky enough to do a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, where every day, weather permitting, 150 hot air balloons grace the sky at sunrise. Even if riding in a hot air balloon isn’t your thing, just watching them all float up over the mountains at sunrise was breath taking.

img_5286-1

  1. Swim with turtles

Swimming with turtles out at sea has always been a dream of mine and we were finally able to do this whilst visiting Muscat in December. Sadly, we didn’t have any cameras / go pro with us so we just have the memories to last for this one!

img_3018-2

  1. Skydive

Ryan and I did a skydive with Skydive Dubai when we first moved here in 2015 which I had booked as his birthday present. I don’t really count myself as the daring and adventurous kind, and I’m not sure if I actually would have the courage to do it again, but the skydive over the Palm is one of the most mind blowing moments of my life. The views were insane and we were so lucky that it was such a clear day, we could see for absolutely miles!

  1. Take a cooking class in Asia

A cooking class is such a great way to fully immerse yourself into another culture, and that’s exactly what we did in Nepal. We started by walking to the market to purchase all of the local produce to cook our meals; we got a lift in a tuk tuk back from the market and we got to cook four dishes of local Nepalese food – but eating it was definitely the best part!

img_1342-1

  1. Seeing elephants in the wild

When I first decided to go travelling at 19, I spent eight weeks in Thailand, two of which I spent volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park (just an FYI, this is the most amazing place in the whole world). ENP has created a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from tourist riding, the logging industry, the circus and many other terrible places that elephants just shouldn’t be. Having spent two weeks with these gorgeous animals, I wanted to see them for myself in the wild, and also with their tusks.

img_0843

As a surprise, Ryan booked a 5 day holiday to Kenya and took me on safari. Ryan had been speaking with our tour guide and told him how much I love elephants and so he was determined to find some for us. As we were driving through Tsavo National Park our guide started shouting “fresh poo, FRESH POO” and as we drove round the corner we saw a watering hole with an entire herd of ele’s including babies, and the big daddy’s with their huge tusks. I burst into tears, it was one of the most magical moments of my life.

img_0863.jpg

Now for some items on my bucket list I haven’t yet ticked off…

  1. Go camping in the desert
  2. Swim with sting rays
  3. Swim with sharks
  4. Visit Japan to see the cherry blossom
  5. Go wine tasting in Cape Town
  6. Walk along the Great Wall of China
  7. Ride in a vintage car in the South of France (I would say drive but I’m not a very good driver!)
  8. Visit the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
  9. Camel / donkey ride in Petra, Jordan
  10. Swim in the dead sea
  11. Cruise down the River Nile
  12. Surf in Sri Lanka
  13. Stay in an igloo (Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Finland)
  14. See the Northern Lights
  15. Helicopter ride
  16. Get married (just over 6 months to go!)
  17. Go to an England football match
  18. Buy a house (sadly with all of this travelling, being a proper adult and buying a house is being pushed further and further down my list…)
  19. Visit the place my Mum was born in Singapore
  20. Horse riding in the desert / on the beach
  21. Visit the Pyramids
  22. Go on safari and stay in a safari lodge
  23. Visit Alcatraz, San Francisco
  24. Wine tasting tour in Napa Valley
  25. Have a BBQ in the desert

We have a few trips planned / pencilled in for this year, but obviously our priority is the wedding in August (and so ticking off number 21 from the list). But, in March I am hoping to tick off number 24 when we visit Singapore and head to either Changi Museum or Changi Beach to see the place where my Mum was born 50 years ago.

So, if anyone has any tips / advice for any of the above items on my list, please let me know as I would welcome all recommendations!

Making Memories in Muscat

Living in Dubai I feel that I often take for granted the opportunities that we have to travel, and the counties that we can visit that are right on our doorstep! Oman is a country I have wanted to visit for a while now, having only previously crossed the borders for my visa run when I first moved to Dubai almost four years ago. I also realised I haven’t actually visited any other Gulf countries since living in Dubai! We try to make the most of the public holidays and long weekends, so with this years National Day weekend I decided to book a surprise trip for Ryan and I to Muscat.

The flight to Muscat from Dubai is less than an hour so I literally booked the cheapest flight option available. Flying on the Thursday night after work, we reached Muscat by 9.15pm and were at our hotel within the hour. Before booking this trip, I had read online that you could pick up taxis from the airport relatively cheap – in fact they were half the price offered by the hotels and also metered. I had also read about an app called O-Taxi, which is the Uber equivalent in Oman and it connects you to local taxis. Although the taxis weren’t always available, the app tells you the journey fare which was a good bartering tool for the non-metered taxis.

When we arrived at our hotel we decided to have a quick turn around and pop down to the Lazy Lizard pool bar in our hotel for some causal drinks to start our long weekend. We stayed at the Radisson Blu and I managed to get a good deal by booking direct through the hotel and using the Entertainer voucher for a free nights stay.

Dolphin sightseeing trip

We used the O-Taxi app to take us from our hotel to the Marina Bandah where our dolphin boat trip was starting with Captain Salim. We were only joined by one other couple but the price remained at 25 OR per person (if the boat has 10 people or more then the price is reduced to 20 OR pp). We spent approximately an hour and a half searching for the dolphins but sadly we didn’t see any on any our trip. So our captain took us to a hidden location for snorkelling.

I’ve always been a confident swimmer but I knocked my confidence when we were in Bali a few years ago and I had a panic attack at sea. I tried to overcome it on a staycation in Fujairah a few months later but the same thing happened again. But at the start of the year I was determined to overcome it when we were in the Philippines and we had an amazing time group snorkelling. So this weekend, I felt more confident when we snorkelled off the boat together. Every time we have visited Asia we’ve hoped to be lucky enough to swim with a turtle but we’ve just never seen one! But this weekend within a few minutes of being in the sea we saw two turtles swimming together. We swam above them and followed them as they ate, one even came up for air just a few inches away from me and I was able to touch it’s shell. We then saw five more mooching around at different parts of the coral – this was definitely a bucket list moment for me!

There’s a lovely restaurant in the Marina called Blue Marlin so we sat and had some lunch after the trip. It was the perfect temperature to sit outside, I had fresh prawns with garlic and chilli and Ryan had the fresh snapper fish sandwich, all of which was delicious!

That evening, we made a reservation at The Chedi in the Beach Restaurant. The hotel was absolutely stunning and as we approached the restaurant the walk way was lit with fire and we sat outside on the terrace which was lined with fire pits on the beach front. It was a really romantic setting for dinner. To start, Ryan had mussels (obviously) and I had the seared salmon carpaccio which was beautiful! For our main, we shared the mixed seafood platter and a bottle of wine. The local gentleman behind us was kind enough to send us each over a glass of red wine so we went over to say thank you and he asked us to join him and his family for a drink which was lovely. Omani people are some of the friendliest I have ever met.

Wadi Shab

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit muscat was to visit the Wadi Shab and although most people do this trip alone, I decided to book a tour guide through Oman Day Tours. Our driver picked us up at 8am and we drove two hours out of muscat along the coast line to Tiwi to spend the morning at the Wadi Shab.

img_3366

When you arrive at the Wadi Shab parking area you have to take a boat across a small lake to begin the hike. The only way to cross the lake is via boat and they have a company which runs boats across daily for a small charge. From there, we had a 45 minute hike through semi-mountainous terrain. We wore normal gym trainers for this part which of was fine. As we walked further we felt like we were entering Jurassic World! It’s such a unique place with palm trees and greenery growing inside a valley in the mountains, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

We stopped to swim after 45 minutes of walking and chose a spot to leave our items. We then entered the Wadi and swam for another 30 minutes! The water was the perfect temperature and it felt so refreshing to swim in the fresh mountain water. One thing I would strongly advise to take on this trip is waterproof shoes to wear in the water, as part of it is shallow and very stony, and also a waterproof camera! I can’t believe we forgot to take the GoPro with us! Some parts of the Wadi were super deep and people were climbing up and jumping off the cliffs!

At the end of the Wadi there’s a small gap in the caves that you can swim through. The gap is so small that only your neck and head can be above water to swim through it, the rest of your body needs to be under the water. I would never have dared swim through here if we were not with our guide. But, the other side was completely breathtaking and had inside it a natural waterfall flowing down from the mountains!

After the 30 minute swim, 45 minute hike and boat trip out of the Wadi were exhausted and went to a local Omani restaurant for some traditional food for lunch. On our way back to Muscat, we stopped at Bimmah Sinkhole, another natural beauty of Oman. Locals believe that it was created by a meteorite thousands of years ago but now, it is filled with a mixture of fresh and salt water which you can swim in!

On our final day we were so exhausted by all of the adventures that we slept in until midday and ordered room service, before checking out and heading back to Dubai. I thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend in Muscat and I have already started looking into other trips that we can take back to Oman! I would love to do a hiking trip in Jebel Jais, visit the pink lake in Jalan Bani Bu Ali (on the far east coast) as well as taking a trip down to Salalah – so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

img_3048