Friday, May 13, 2016

Israel Trip – Part 3

After we enjoyed few hours at Masada National Park, my sister and I headed next to Dead Sea (or also called the Salt Sea). We took a bus going there, Google Maps is really the best travel application that time. My original plan (renting a card) didn’t materialize so the app was a great help that time! 


It was called the Dead Sea because of the huge amount of saline in the water that prevents the existence of any life form in it. Many people believe that if you just take a quick dip in it, great benefits will be felt and sometimes it can remedy any illness or sickness. Also, it is popular because they said that you can float on it and it was true, I tried it and I floated hehe. But I would recommend you to wear some special shoes (I really don’t know what you call that) as most of the rocks were covered with salt and it was so difficult to walk on them. The area has shower rooms so after you spend some dipping in the sea, you can use them for a very cheap price.




The next day, we took a bus and decided to go to Bethlehem. During that time, Google Maps brought us in a place where walls are covering the area. I was thinking that maybe there was something wrong but I realized that Bethlehem is inside the Palestine area. So a taxi driver brought us to the entrance (or border) where our passports were checked. The gate was filled with police. Once you get inside, there will be taxis that will offer you to bring you inside (with a tour guide) and will return you back to the gate.




We only had one plan that time and it was to see the ‘Church of Nativity’. It was under construction/restoration that time but we were still allowed to get inside. It was the birth place of Jesus Christ and the place was full of tourists and believers. We got the chance to see personally the place where He was birth and my sister even touched/prayed on it. It was an emotional moment and I felt some chill that time and probably others felt it too. The holiness of the place brought us to some place and a time in history.




Our next destination that day was in Mount of Olives and we directly went to the garden of Gethsemane. This was the place where Jesus went frequently with His disciples to pray. The most significant time that He prayed was the night before His crucifixion when He was betrayed. We spent few moments in it to pray. That time, new olive trees were already planted but still there were some trees (with twisted trunks) that have dated their aerial parts from the 12th century. 



Also in the Mount of Olives is the Jewish Cemetery. Some people that were buried there are famous and rabbis. It is actually an incredible place to stay if you want to see the sunrise or sunset. But there isn't much to see in it, nevertheless the view from it is quite nice.




Our last stop that day was the Church of Mary’s Tomb. I remember that during our childhood years, my sister and I were members of ‘Legion of Mary’. My sister insisted to visit this place. The church is cut into rock and there is a staircase leading down to it. It is an underground church so be careful when walking down. The place was very quiet and very well decorated. There lies and empty grave and the feeling of magical presence in the air was undeniable. 




On our last day in Israel, we visited The Garden Tomb. Every time I hear this place, the words that are entering my mind are: “He is not here, for He is risen!”. It is the highlight of my trip because it reminded me how powerful He is and how much He sacrificed for us. It is the place where He rose again. I bought my new bible in this place and I felt so blessed. It is how amazing how life brings us to a place where we have never been but it felt like we are part of it. The place is well maintained, peaceful and tranquil. My entire Israel trip was very memorable. I got to spend time and visit the holy place and was a perfect moment to bond with my sister. To see more of our photos, see below video.



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Israel Trip – Part 2

On our fourth day in Israel, we woke up very early and checked out from the hotel. We took bus from Tiberias bus station going to Kinneret. We were looking for this hotel and it was so hard to find but eventually found it. The hotel was Ohalo Manor Hotel. We left our luggage and went directly to Yardenit.


Yardenit is a baptism site located along Jordan River. The color of the water is like emerald green, not sure if the water is clean or not but I think this place is very important to the many pilgrims visiting. It was a very nice experience to see this place as I just usually hear this place in the bible. The place is also surrounded by the prayer “Our Father” translated into several languages. 


Inside of it, there is a store where you can buy souvenirs like the water itself, some oil, bibles, etc. It was raining that time but it didn’t stop us to explore the entire place and my sister even got some water and put in a bottle. I don’t know but being in that place, it felt like a wonderful rest and that I am also in peace.


Our next destination was Beit She'an National Park.  The ruins are amazing! By walking through this park, it is so easy to imagine what it used to be during the old times. It was like stepping back in history.  Walking among the ruins and see the columns felt like I was there before the destruction due to earthquake. The place is also incredible as the preservation of the old Roman towns is striking. Beit She'an was a major Biblical city, located in the center of crossroads between the Jordan valley and the Jezreel (Yizreel) valley. It later was expanded into a large Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine city of Scythopolis.


I would advise you to spend and allow more time in this place. It is indeed a fascinating excavated Roman site. You will also be amazed by how people spent planning on architecture and engineering design during those old times. The restoration of the baths, temples and especially the amphitheater was awesome. We took a bus going here and it was about 10 minute walk from the bus stop. It was easy to find.



We also made a quick visit to Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. Here, it is believed, the archangel Gabriel told the young Mary, aged about 14, that she would become the mother of the Son of God. We entered the church and spent few minutes inside. It was almost 6 PM when we arrived there but they are still open. 


We went back to Tiberias and spent one night in G Hotel. Early next day, we took a bus going to Jerusalem. We were trying to find our hotel (Hotel Zion) but it was a bit tricky. When we found it, it was like just in front of us. It is located centrally in the old town of Jerusalem. The hotel is not bad at all and I recommend this because restaurants, stores and tourist spots are just walking distance from it.



After a quick rest, we walked around the old city. From the entrance, the first site that you will see is the Tower of David Museum. But we opted to go and enter thru Jaffa gate and walked around the old city on a higher place. It was like a big wall surrounding the area and we were walking on top of the walls and was able to see some other places. We also saw ‘King David’s Tomb’, ‘Room of the Last Supper’ and the ‘Dormition Abbey’.



For me, the highlight that time was the visit to the ‘Western Wall’. The place was jam-packed with a lot of tourists. Many people believe that by inserting a prayer in the wall, there will be a big chance that it will be answered. I also heard from someone that every day, they collect all the prayer requests and pray on it one by one. So I wrote all my prayers in a paper and put there my requests. My friends from Dubai also asked me to insert theirs. It was so amazing to see that many people believe in the power of prayer and I was sure that their faith is undeniable. It was a good experience just to stand there, pray and reflect on the good things that have happened to my life.


Next day was a long day. As usual, by bus, we went to ‘Masada National Park’. After paying the entrance fee, you need to ride the cable car that will bring you on top. You can also choose to go on top by hiking and taking the stairs. The cable car ride was so exciting and the view from the top was magnificent. Masada is located on a steep and isolated hill on the edge of the Judean Desert Mountains, on the shores of the Dead Sea.




According to history, it is the place where the Jews who lived on it opted to commit mass suicide rather than surrendering to the Romans. Yes, the park was the place of a mass suicide during the old times. Nevertheless, this thought didn’t hinder us to enjoy the place. Though it was a bit sunny, the air was still fresh and walking around the area became easy. The park is well organized. There are explanations and text on most of the significant places. See more of our photos in the video below.



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 grandcanyontours.com 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.



 
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