Thursday, 31 March 2016

REDISCOVERING DUBAI Part III: Dubai's Darling Harbour

I'm sure you won't disagree no matter which side of the equator you live in, that constant grey and gloom can get very boring. So when you're in a country that has an endless supply of sunshine, the expectations are high. 

As Dubai Marina reminds the Mr of Darling Harbour during his days in Sydney, we decided one morning to have brunch there. I haven't seen any posts on social media where Dubai Marina was overcast. You'll see it here now.

I  must say though that eternally sunny regions' version of overcast is the equivalent of a pretty bright day in the UK with a chance of midday showers. So it was rather a familiar sight, but better because the temperature was in the mid-20s and it was only 11 a.m.

I wanted to go back one evening as I can imagine how gorgeous the marina would be when bathed in lights. We didn't have the time though. I swapped the marina for PappaRoti buns in downtown Dubai. The famished cannot appreciate aesthetics.

I have always said that I'm not fond of cities that are too modern. High-rise and skyscrapers, wide roads, supercars, and shopping malls the size of spaceships don't do it for me as opposed to antiquity. But artificial can also give us a natural high: that inherent peace and calm we derive from uninhabited beaches or centuries-old libraries or museums can be transferable. Perhaps it's not really where we are; it is our state of mind.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


I was in a dark mood after our farewell dinner with my mother, sister, and brother-in-law, I did what any authentic leisure-seeking local would do: go malling. I was also craving for PapaRotti's fluffy buns and signature tea and wanted the Mr to try them before heading back to the UK. 

We both shun being mall rats, but he agrees with me (he's not allowed the other way around) that malling in Dubai is a pleasant and relaxing activity, believe it or not. Perhaps it's a by-product of its gargantuan space that both locals and tourists can't fill up the malls, the endless choices of eateries and cuisines (not to mention the value-for-money portions), the luxury toilets with reception areas (at least some of them), the long opening hours (there's no need to rush after work to get some groceries, grab dinner, and catch a film as some open until 1 a.m.), the Arabian touch and accent on interior design, and the entertaining ubiquitous flashiness that back home would be very TOWIE, but in Dubai is more like a religion.

Step into my wedge sandals

My nascent obsession for interior design and fixtures takes me mosaic-tile spotting.

Notice that I didn't mention shopping despite Dubai being notorious for retail therapy. If you live in Europe, you will quickly find out that there's no difference in prices between UAE Dirhams and Euros and Sterling. I say Dubai is a shopping haven for tourists whose VAT and import taxes in their home countries quash the joy in buying more of the items one doesn't need and will never need. However, I tend to purchase brands in Dubai that are not available in the UK. 

I have been to The Souk at the Dubai Mall several times over the years but haven't paid much attention to its decor and interior. It's true that when you've seen the same over and over again, a fresh perspective will take the subject to a different light. 

The Dubai Fountain is the largest choreographed fountain system in the world, the forerunner of which is the Bellagio Hotel Lake fountains in Las Vegas. From the last time I first watched the fountain show in 2010, the duration has been cut. The shortened version felt more like a teaser. When the water has settled back though, the site across the man-made lake captivated me. The reflection of lights on water at night recreates a natural wonder which softens the coldness of modern-day structures and architectural feats. 

After satiating my PappaRoti cravings, we were left with half an hour before The Dubai Mall closed. It was 11.30 in the evening, and I was thinking about not having enough time left to scour the mall for nothing in particular. I was bitten by the local bug. No, not by the addictive shopping habits, but by the thought that midnight is still too early to be indoors.

PS. This month, I turn 3 in the blogosphere. Time flies. Thanks to all of you who still keep on reading :)

Saturday, 26 March 2016


I've done this countless times and my family is used to living continents apart. In fact, I don't remember a time when all of us have managed to stay in one place together for two consecutive years without a gap. You could say airport drop-offs no longer move me to tears. 

I was wrong.

It was like a scene in a film, but instead of an airport departure lounge, our goodbyes were right across Carrefour in the busiest area of the Mall of the Emirates. Clutching the shopping bag containing regular and spicy Cheetos and Lays which my sister bought for me (trust me each bag is worth the dizzying shopping trip around a standard Carrefour which is about the same size as a wholesale Costco in the UK), we exchanged hugs and kisses and I turned my back and walked away from my mother, sister (my other sister, the youngest, has already flown back to the Philippines the night before), and my brother-in-law. I congratulated myself for not getting emotional. 

Metres away, instinct made me look back. As I would expect from my mother, she also looked back at the same time. Or perhaps she never turned her back and was waiting for me to look her way again. I waived goodbye and quickly turned to my direction further away.  Sadness hit me without warning and I welled up with tears.  The Mr was next to me but he couldn't comfort me as the last thing we would do as tourists in Dubai was to draw attention to ourselves. 

My niece and goddaughter who's turning six this year, gave me a present: torn pages from her colouring book placed in an envelope sealed with clear sellotape which she insisted her mum get for her. One page is a picture of Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King duo); the other is an image of a shark in purple as I told her it was my favourite colour, with a baby seahorse looking up admiringly at the shark who was about to brush its teeth. The day before I bought her a Mrs Potato Head toy in Hamley's (I didn't know Mr Potato Head is married); the torn pages may be her way of thanking me and sending me off with a little bit of what she treasures. She taught me some words and phrases in a new language she's been learning in school. She introduced me to Shopkins. I Googled this as I didn't understand my niece's miniature collection of grocery shopping baskets and department store shopping bags. My brother-in-law says my niece is quite adept in shopping. Well, why am I not surprised? That's one skill passed on to generations in our family. We looked at photos of puppies and dogs we both would like to own one day.  She told me I didn't need to get a tan as I was the same colour as her brown crayon. 

Dhows lit and queued up for their two-hour Dubai Creek cruise 

The Radisson Blu Dhow Cruise where my family and I had a sumptuous two-hour Lebanese and Persian dinner while cruising Dubai Creek

Since she was born in 2010, I only missed one year to see her and her younger brother. I thought about how much she has grown from the last time I saw her two years ago. We now have interesting conversations. With the limited amount of time I spent with her this time, I felt that I would be missing out on so much if I don't see my family again this year. I was glad not to have lined my lower lids. Otherwise I could've been mistaken for Kung Fu Panda, albeit in a floral shirt dress.

A cruising display of neon lights

My sister booked a Radisson Blu Dhow Cruise dinner for all of us --something which we all haven't done together despite them living there for a decade now, and myself visiting almost annually for the past six years. The weather was balmy and the slight breeze made the cruise even more pleasant. Slowly cruising past the bright lights of the Old Town, I thought about how I'm always rushed off my feet back in the UK and how I desperately need a break every quarter of the year. It's always best to come home. And home is family, in whatever part of the world we find ourselves together. 

I flew back to my life 3,400 miles away from Dubai, where sunny is more like a state of mind than a physical setting.  It's grey and gloomy at its best, grey and gloomy and cold and rainy at its worst. The sun occasionally turns up--the kind of guest I'm happy to have unannounced and who can overstay its welcome. I'm just happy there's always something to look forward to, whether it's here, or in a place in the sun.

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