La Mer Open Water Swim 2018 and How I Survived as a First Timer

Expat Life

I love the waters (the pool specifically) and swimming. It always excites me to be able to take a dip and swim a few laps.

Though I’m not a professional swimmer, I did compete in several local meets and age group competitions when I was younger and in the annual sportsfests while in college. Then after that, I took an 8-year hiatus because life happened.

Coming back from a vacation in our hometown, where my love for the sport started, I decided to join in an open water swim race for two reasons; 1) to conquer my fear of swimming in the open sea therefore confronting the scary sea monsters in my head, and 2) to take the first step to getting fit and healthy in my 30s.

I remembered what my father (who also happened to be my coach and trainer back then) used to say, “The depth of the water is immaterial when you know how to swim.”

This stuck with me but somehow couldn’t wrap my mind around it because every time I dip my head in the ocean and swim a few strokes, I freeze and forget that I know how to swim. Also, I am pretty damned scared of the waves and not being able to see a black line leading you to the other end and the many unknown creatures I have formed in my head.

If you have seen me splashing and waddling in the sea seemingly delighted, please know that I really am but a part of me is scared stiff especially when my head is already underwater.

But turning 30 last month gave me the extra courage to be dauntless. Heck, it’s now or never. Forget the fact that I haven’t had training for the last 8 years and had zero exercise —um well, if the squats and walking I did towards the end of my pregnancy last year would count, that’s about it.

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Campbell Inn Hostel at Little India

Expat Life, Wanderings

Mathew and I were going to be in Singapore for only 18 hours and will just be spending a night so a backpacker hostel was our best option.

I found Campbell Inn Hostel in Little India with a fair review and an affordable price so I did not hesitate to click book right away. Thanks to the ease of using booking.com, you can book without a credit card and pay later when you arrive at the property.

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A few meters walk from Campbell Inn is the Little India MRT Station.

Campbell Inn is conveniently located in Little India, close to the Rochor and Little India MRT Stations and surrounded by several restaurants, hawker stalls, and mini groceries.

Little India was decorated with different lanterns, flowers and lighting ornaments in celebration of the Deepavali Festival or the Festival of Lights which usually runs from mid-October to November.

How to Maximize an 18-hour Singapore Layover

Expat Life, Wanderings

We intentionally chose to have a longer layover on our journey back to Dubai so we could explore the Lion City a bit more. Yes to maximizing vacation leave credits and value for money!

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A glimpse of Singapore’s coastline.

21:30 – 01:00

Our flight from Manila was delayed due to some technical difficulties so instead of arriving at 8:20 in the evening in Singapore, we arrived an hour later.

Mathew’s high school classmate and friend fetched us at the airport and accompanied us to our hostel in Little India.

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Lanterns and other lighting ornaments decorated Little India in celebration of the Deepavali Festival (Festival of Lights) which usually starts mid-October.

How We Spent a 6-hour Layover in Singapore Changi Airport

Expat Life, Wanderings

We had a 6-hour layover in Singapore on our flight from Dubai to Manila and we decided to spend it inside Changi Airport. Six hours might seem a long stretch for some but when you are in one of the world’s best airports, time flies.

I prepared an itinerary for the things to see and do in all the terminals but factoring in all our stops and sleep-deprived selves, we only managed to check out some spots in terminals 1, 2 and 3.

Here’s a rundown of our Changi experience.

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Our flight landed at Terminal 3 where the Butterfly Garden is located.

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The area has two levels but it isn’t that huge and a good 15-30 minutes would be enough to explore and observe the different species of butterflies. We had to cut short our visit though because someone was already hangry.

Hala China Launch: Wind from the Sea, the Belt & Road Dance Special at Dubai Opera

Expat Life, Wanderings

When you’re given an opportunity to witness an important and culturally entertaining event at THE Dubai Opera, you do not hesitate. You say yes, and take it with gratitude.

Last Sunday, my husband, I and some friends were at the launch of Hala China, a government initiative led by Meraas and Dubai Holding that aims to boost the number of Chinese tourists in the emirate and improve trade relations between Dubai and China.

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Ramadan 2018 Reminders

Expat Life

Whether you’re fresh off the boat or have been living here in the UAE (or any Muslim country) for a long time, it always helps to be reminded of the several dos and don’ts during the holy month of Ramadan.

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The Don’ts:

  • Do not eat or drink in public during the hours of fasting. Smoking is also prohibited. You are excused however if you’re pregnant, an elderly or suffering from an illness as fasting might pose health problems.
  • Do not wear revealing or tight clothes. This is already observed throughout the year but is strictly imposed during Ramadan.
  • Do not be loud. No shouting, swearing, singing, playing of loud music and definitely no dancing in public.
  • Public display of affection is considered as offensive so avoid kissing, hugging or cuddling your husband, wife, partner or friend/s especially of the opposite sex.
  • If you are working in a front office or reception, refrain from offering guests with refreshments even if you’re not sure if they’re fasting or not.

The Dos:

  • Embrace the spirit of peace and contemplation. This is the best time to reflect on and be thankful of the countless blessings and opportunities that this country has given you.
  • Be extra understanding towards those who fast. They do it from sunrise to sundown so imagine how challenging that might be. Others might be a bit irritable but just be more patient and considerate.
  • Experience the culture – for one, partake in the many Iftar offers. Take your family or friends with you and feel the lively energy of the community after they have broken their fast for the day. I tell you, the city becomes so vibrant at night during this season.
  • Greet the people you encounter Ramadan Mubarak (have a blessed Ramadan) or Ramadan Kareem (have a generous Ramadan).

Remember that Ramadan is a sacred month for the Muslim community so it is important to respect these rules even if you’re non-Muslim.

May you all have a happy and blessed Ramadan!

Why You Should Check Out Alserkal Avenue

Expat Life, Wanderings

I came across this hip and artsy location while I was on my daily morning routine, scanning my emails which are generally boring. I mostly receive spam aside from the occasional interesting ones from several sites I have subscribed to. So when I saw a feature about this ‘culture and arts hub’ I did not hesitate to badger Mat that we should go and check it out. 😛

Disclaimer: We are in no way an artist or something of that sort. I’d describe us as ‘lurkers’. Hehe! But we have always been interested in these kind of things. 

So, after all of our Friday chores, off we went to Alserkal Avenue. The place is a collection of warehouses converted into creative spaces located in Al Quoz.

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Enclosed by concrete walls, the facade seemed uninviting. But as they say, do not judge a book by its cover. What is inside will often surprise you, and surprised we were!

Exploring Old Dubai: Abra Ride, Gold & Spice Souks and Museum Visit

Expat Life, Wanderings

Dubai as a metropolitan city that it is, is famous for skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, lavish resorts, massive malls and other ‘superb’ attractions. But what lies in the city’s heart is its true charm – the Old Dubai.

We started off at Al Shindagha area as it was the nearest from where we live. We got off at Al Ghubaiba bus station and walked several meters to reach the Bur Dubai Abra Station. Our sole plan on that day was just to experience riding the abra but since there were cultural spots in proximity, we decided to explore some.

House of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Maktoum

On our way to the abra station, we passed by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s house turned museum also known as Juthoor Art Center. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum is the grandfather of Dubai’s current ruler and this was his official residence during his reign as monarch until 1958. It houses artworks and several vintage items depicting Emirati lifestyle.

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The view upon entering the premises.

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Artworks and historical items on display.

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Nose-rubbing is the Emiratis’ custom way of greeting one another.  This is also practiced in other cultures (i.e. Maori people of New Zealand).