Friday, February 5, 2016

Israel Trip – Part 1

Last 2014, I spent my Christmas and New Year holiday in Israel. It was a very memorable experience! I got to travel with my sister Joy and the entire trip was a whirlwind journey and very exciting! It was actually more of a tourist trip rather than biblical (I am planning to do this pilgrim hopefully very soon). My original plan was to rent a car but unfortunately, my credit card was not being accepted in this country. Apparently, UAE cards cannot transact into any Israeli banks for some reasons. It was a good thing that I prepared a lot of cash as I had an idea that it will happen but I still had a doubt. So my itinerary was changed in an instant! 

We arrived there on Christmas day and reached our hotel Ateret Suites in Tel Aviv. The hotel’s location was very hard to find but we still managed to reach it (thanks to the very kind cab driver). The hotel room was big enough for us and is walking distance from the beach. So we stayed a night and the next day, we took a bus going to Tiberias. We first visited then the Caesarea National Park.

It was so fulfilling to stand on the ruins of what once a Roman civilization. It was like history unfolding right before my eyes. It was so beautiful and properly preserved though there were some minor repairs. The park displays several areas to display the early ways of living in the ancient times. Also, the radiant blue rays from the Mediterranean sea was a perfect addition to make this as one of the most memorable parts of our trip.

The place is so large that it will require almost a day just go around it. Fortunately, there are some small restaurants, pizzeria and coffee shop in the park. Also, you can buy souvenirs from its gift shop. We returned back to our hotel in Tiberias almost 5PM and trust me, it was a very difficult time getting a bus. It was like we were in the middle of nowhere. We arrived at G Hotel Tiberias at almost 7PM then rested a while then took a sumptuous dinner.

On the 27th of December, it was time for us to cruise the Sea of Galilee. It was a magical moment for me and during the ride, we had some praise songs. We also took a moment to reflect and the breathtaking view of the sea was like embracing me and bringing me to another place of happiness. The crystal water and wind was upon our faces and that moment was very refreshing. The boat ride brought us back to Tiberias. From there, we decided to rent a taxi that brought us to other destinations.

We went to Megiddo National Park. It is a protected site in Israel. Wandering around was relatively easy as it was leveled through several cities and civilizations. The sight is indeed amazing. It was like a complete layer of history, city walls, gates and ancient stables. 

My sister tried to see and enter some tunnels as there were also many excavations in this historical site. This park looks over the Valley of Armageddon and the view of it was one of my favorites. You will definitely feel that the ruins were authentic ancient structure. It was also the site of some epic and decisive battles down the ages. After roaming around the park for almost three hours, I instructed the cab drive to bring us to Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. 

Unfortunately, the top part of the site was close so I didn’t get a very good picture of it. There were many tourists around that time. It was beautifully maintained and from the place where we were standing, I can say that it was a beautiful garden though there are no special plants or rare flowers or something. Just make sure to check first on the internet or get some enough information about the opening of the gates to climb up to the top dome. Well, we didn’t take more time on it and we just decided to go next to Acre (Akko) in Haifa.

The Old City of Acre is surrounded by old structures with several stalls that sell almost everything. From perfume to clothes to electric gadgets, just name it. But the good thing about it is that the old buildings were preserved and the way it presented to the people, it was like shopping in old ancient valleys and streets that were built long time ago. You can visit everything by walking. There was also a huge fortress and nice harbor walls. After walking around the old city for almost two hours, we decided to end that day. See below video to see more of the pictures we took during this part of the trip.

Monday, August 17, 2015

My US Trip Itinerary (2 Weeks)

My two week vacation in USA took a lot of planning and research to complete. For that span of time, I was able to cover/visit the following places:
  1. New York
  2. Washington
  3. Tampa
  4. Miami
  5. San Francisco
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Arizona
  8. Las Vegas
I was also able to visit other airports even just for a stopover (Moscow, Detroit and Minnesota) and I love airports. For the flight research, ClearTrip and SkyScanner are the best sites that you can use. It is always to have at least two references to compare the prices. For the bus, I compared Megabus and Greyhound. It is very important to plan, not just the tourist destinations and time, but also the budget and cost that will be required during the trip. Below is my itinerary that I prepared for this trip. I don't know but planning and preparing notes like this excites me. I used the below as base and reference for the entire trip. I can say that it I have followed almost 90% of it and the costs are almost exact (Except for the bus and flight, they are in exact amount. For hotels, you might need to add costs for tax and other charges.). Of course, there will be circumstances that you will spend more or make a sudden change. The list below doesn't include my shopping cost.

US Trip - Las Vegas

Las Vegas was the last stop of my "US Tour". This vibrant city is one of the most famous places in the United States. Not just because of its hotel casinos but also the night life and the amazing colors of the great architectures around the area. We stayed in the world famous 'MGM Grand Hotel' and it was a really comfortable stay. I was thinking that I am already in Vegas so why not stay in a prestigious hotel.

We tried the 'MGM Grand Buffet' and I must say, it was really good. You have a lot of options though the price is a bit expensive. Nevertheless, we had our dinner there twice hahaha. It was also great to see many Filipinos working in this hotel and they made us proud because the service was superb.

We just basically walked through the Las Vegas strip, day and night and felt the atmosphere and the joy that surrounded us.  There are a lot of stores where you can buy souvenirs and some gifts. Ne and I were excited to see those items and yes, we bought a lot of stuffs (especially me).

We stayed there for 3 days and two nights and we made sure to spend time on casino. Slot machines were the easiest and I was able to win at least eleven dollars haha. Ne was more risk taker as she played with the roulettes but she lost everything eventually. Overall, it was a fun and very exciting two weeks vacation. See more of our adventures in Las Vegas by playing below video.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Serbian Trainers in Dubai

For the last few weeks, I am now trying to get back to the 'fitness' style of life. I stopped going to gym for almost a year and as you may know, the result is not a good one. Now, I am trying to lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle. Good thing, I can manage to workout on my own and the experience I had with my previous personal trainers helped a lot. I have posted here in my blog the profiles of my trainers from Manila and Singapore. Now, let me introduce to you the men behind my healthy body 2 years ago. Incidentally, they are all from Serbia and when it comes to fitness, they are very serious.

1. Jakša Sekulović. He is actually a tennis coach before transferring to Dubai and become a personal trainer. I learned from Jakša the importance of endurance. Since he is familiar with long hours of training for tennis, he managed to apply the same techniques on my fitness routine. Amazingly, our workouts resulted to a great outcome. I was able to lose 5 kilos every month and the clothes I was wearing was changed to Large from XXL. What good thing about Jakša is that he is flexible and knows how to use machines in different ways. He loves music and also an experienced DJ. Jakša is also very competitive. There was once a competition where they have to execute a workout routine in the shortest time. Check the below video to see how he managed to complete it. Fortunately, his team won.

Right now, Jakša is a tennis coach at 'Clark Francis Tennis Academy' and I am so happy for him because I know that tennis is his passion and it is where he is good at. The students in this academy, for sure, are very lucky having him as a coach.

2. Bojan Stajković. Bojan really knows his stuff. Our priority that time was to be more adaptive to different kinds of machines and equipment. He will push you beyond your mental and physical limits. Bojan gave me some advice about food control and how to choose the right and healthy meals. He has a wonderful and humble personality and very approachable for some help and advice (even not about fitness). He will motivate you until you reach your goals. He is knowledgeable in fitness because he is a very passionate cyclist and always on the road. For you to achieve that level of easiness in biking, you have to be very fit. Based on his Facebook profile, he's been travelling to other countries to either compete or participate in a cycling event.

3. Miloš Janković. Miloš was working at ‘FitYou’ when I got his services. He was in control of his time so we managed to have a workout in a gym near to my apartment. He was very focused when we were doing our sessions. We had a tagline before where he will ask, 'Are you ready?' then I will reply, 'Always'. We used to have plenty of circuit training but muscle development was not being compromised. He is also very passionate with this field and will assist you for anything that you need such as routine variations and nutrition information. I used to call him 'Eric Bana' of Dubai as they kinda look a like. Anyway, right now, he is doing part time modeling and working as a fitness manager in a well-known gym. I think he is now based in Abu Dhabi.

Right now, I am back in Fitness First near my apartment and on the “hunt” for my next trainer.

Pictures used are from their Facebook profile and were posted with their permission.

US Trip - Arizona

We arrived at Las Vegas around 6 PM and had few drinks in a bar. But in the next day, we boarded the bus that took us to the State of Arizona. I booked the tour online via and the service was not that bad. They provided coffee and bread from the bus stop while queuing in the line. At first stop, we found ourselves at Hoover Dam. The construction was built between 1931 and 1936. It is actually situated in the border of US states of Arizona and Nevada. Aside from being the largest reservoir in the US by volume, it also generates power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona and California. Actually, we were just outside the dam. We weren't able to get inside for some reasons. On the popular culture, they are saying that the US government is hiding a UFO or aliens inside the dam, haha.

After that quick tour in the dam, we had a buffet lunch along Route 66. Then we headed to the Grand Canyon. Oh, the view was amazing! It is one of the biggest tourist attractions that I have seen. The feeling was definitely and undeniably ecstatic. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage site so you would expect a proper preservation of the place. I was in awe just by staring at it. We entered the park from South Rim as I believe it is more accessible for tourists. Around the area, you will find lodging services where you can book a room and enjoy the magnificent view. There are some stores and even an RV park. It was a very fast trip in Arizona but seeing the Grand Canyon was totally worth it. See more pictures from the video below:

Monday, August 3, 2015

US Trip - Los Angeles

From San Francisco, we headed next to Los Angeles via Megabus. We were fortunate to stay with Ne's relatives, Tito Raffy and Tita Lods. They were very accommodating and nice people. Their love story is superb but I won't go into details about that. Anyway, we stayed at their house and Tita Lods always cooked the best and tasty meals. Our initial plan was to get a hop on hop off bus tour but Tito Raffy was kind enough to drive us around LA.

Hence, our first stop was in Palos Verdes. We visited there the Wayfarers Chapel which is also known as the 'Glass Church'. It is very famous for glamorous wedding and the view that surrounded it is very peaceful because of the dramatic sceneries of the ocean and hills. We also made a quick stop at 'Redondo Beach' which is located in the South Bay region of the Los Angeles area.

Afterwards, Tito Raffy drove us around the very famous Hollywood Boulevard. But first, we went our way up to the 'Griffith Observatory' where we saw the very famous 'Hollywood Sign'. It was like a dream come true for both of us, we only saw it before in movies! Haha! The place was jam-packed with tourists but we were still able to get a good shot. Of course we wouldn't miss the 'Hollywood Walk of Fame'. We walked along the boulevard and took several pictures. Ne and I really enjoyed the place as we also saw some street performers and impersonators.

We also made a quick tour around the famous 'Beverly Hills'. Oh yes, this place is totally for rich people. The place is full of famous brands and I really appreciated the architectural structure of some of the stores. Of course, we couldn’t afford to buy anything in that 'mall' but walking around the streets was good enough to feel 'rich' even for few minutes haha.

The next day, it was Sunday and before our tour, we attended a service at 'Calvary Chapel South Bay'. It was a feel good moment that we were able to seek for guidance and protection on that day. We visited the 'USS Iowa (BB-61)' ship. It is the last lead ship of any class of the United States battleship and was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. We also visited 'The Queen Mary', also an old ship that sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967. They said that there are ghosts inside the ship. We also made a fast journey at 'Downtown Disney' and 'Universal Studios' but we didn't get inside as for myself, I have tried it both in Hong Kong and Singapore. We just walked around the place and enjoyed some ice cream and the surrounding itself.

On our last day in Los Angeles, we were on our own. Tito Raffy had to go to work. So Ne and I took bus and train to reach the famous 'Farmers Market'. It is basically a place where you can buy a lot of stuff and eat several cuisines at very affordable prize. And just beside the market, is 'The Grove'. It is like a big mall where people can buy signature labels or just enjoy the place. We watched the movie 'The Maze Runner' and we kinda enjoyed it. Tito Raffy picked us up to get home. From LA, we headed next to Las Vegas but that will be in the next post. Play the video below to see more of the pictures we took during our LA trip.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

US Trip - San Francisco

It was almost 10PM when we landed on San Francisco International Airport. We were picked up by the Juanatas, Ne's church friends from Ugong, Pasig. They were very nice and very hospitable. They are Christian family and I sensed sincerity and goodness. We stayed in their beautiful home at Vallejo. It was only one night accommodation and I really appreciated their kindness.

The next day, we headed to the Ferry Terminal and bought tickets. We were going to Pier 39. During the trip, the view along the Napa River was amazing. The calm waters made the journey even better as we took some pictures.

We arrived at Port of San Francisco before 9AM and we roamed the area. We walked along the streets and found some interesting places. Pier 39 is a unique site on its own. It has plenty of stalls, markets, stores and food centers. I saw the place where you can take a ferry towards Alcatraz but unfortunately, it requires advance booking as it was full that day.

Then, we visited the popular tourist attraction Fisherman's Wharf. It is located in Pier 39 but this area has other attractions such as museums and parks. But most importantly, there are plenty of seafood restaurants! We tried this crab soup in bread (I forgot the exact name) that is being sold along the streets and I must say, it was very tasty! Also, around the area is a sea lion colony.

Of course, we wouldn't miss to visit the famous Golden Gate. From Pier 39, we walked and looked for a bus stop so that we can take it but we got lost so we just decided to take a cab. Ah, it was an ecstatic feeling and I couldn't hide my happiness when I saw the prominent structure. It was a perfect day and a perfect way to appreciate the beauty.

At around 5PM, we went back to Fisherman's Wharf and waited for Pam. It was very nice of her to drive us around the city. We went to Japantown (first time to hear such kind of place, mostly it is Chinatown) and Pam treated us some snacks from Sophie's Crepes. We also visited The Coit Tower and drove around the city at night. It was a magnificent view of the skyscrapers of the city and the lights that surrounded them.

Lastly, Pam treated us (again) to a sumptuous dinner at Cha Cha Cha. The foods were seriously deelish! We were fortunate to get a table as it was filled with customers. After that, Pam drove us to the bus station where we took a bus going to Los Angeles. Play below video to see other pictures of our trip in San Francisco.

Friday, July 3, 2015

John Legend Live in Dubai

Dubai Jazz Festival happened last February but I really have to post this because I was very excited about this event! I am a big fan of John Legend and I saw him live for the first time last March 28, 2009. I even blogged about it. Anyway, the festival was a 3 day event but I only attended the last one.

The opening performer was Esperanza Spalding. She is the first Jazz act to win 'Best New Artist' in the Grammy Awards. I am not really a big fan of jazz music but when I heard her, I appreciated it. She is best known for playing a big jazz guitar. Her music is very relaxing and it seems like there was an overflowing of coolness in the atmosphere that time.

After almost an hour, John Legend came out of the stage and everyone was screaming his name. The above video was his performance of his very first hit song 'Ordinary People'. I lost track of the number of songs he did but I am proud to say that I know ALL of the songs that he performed. I was singing my lungs out haha. Other people didn't really know some of his songs but everyone was enjoying every minute of his performance.

He also performed his latest hit 'All of Me' but unfortunately, I ran out of battery. He did a very unique version of the song. He mixed it with Arabic 'touch' and was joined by three other performers playing instruments. I found the above video on YouTube and trust me, this version is quite enchanting. I am hoping to see him again live very soon.

2nd video courtesy of Fleur Yennek-Butcher

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