Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hanoi Trip 2014 – Day 1

It was September 2009 when I first visited Vietnam (see the blog post here) but I only stayed one day in Hanoi. My only purpose that time was to experience the Halong Bay cruise. So after five years, I decided to come back and spend more time in the country's capital. Good thing I have some colleagues/friends who accommodated me very well and were so kind to provide me a quick but wonderful experience in this beautiful city. I landed on 27th of June at around twelve in the afternoon and since I didn't get much sleep, I made a quick nap in the hotel before meeting the guys.


The hotel I chose was very close to the Vietnam office so I was able to see it and for the first time, meet the rest of the guys. I have known Ha, Son and Cuong during our onsite project in Oman. So, I met Tu, Tung and incidentally, Elena was also there whom I've already met in Dubai office (she is from Russia office). Another guy, Dung, was out of the office that time but I was able to meet him the next day. After that quick "hi and hello", Tu accompanied me to walk around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake.


Hoàn Kiếm Lake is historical lake in the central Hanoi. The name means "Lake of the Returned Sword" and it is one of the major tourist spots in the capital. Tu and I took one round of walking and the sight of each step was marvelous. The calm lake was so beautiful that the reflection of the trees and a small light from the sun created a scene of magnificence. The dead big turtle was also on display and Tu told me that there was one remaining huge turtle inhabits the lake.


After more than an hour, we came back to the office. After few more minutes, their office hours were finished so it was time for dinner! Haha. Unfortunately, Tung was unable to join us for some reason. So we went to this restaurant and ordered some foods. But most importantly, an overflowing beer was required. The place was filled with customers and our table was also filled with beer! When they say 'Cheers!', you have no choice but to lift your mug and drink even though you just drank a minute before that. The foods were good but I think the beers were better; it was my first time to taste a black beer.


There was a stage that was setup during that time and of course with a stage, comes performers. There were singing and dance numbers. See the video above as a sample of what you can expect in this restaurant.


After that sumptuous dinner, the night wasn't done yet. We went to this karaoke bar and sang our lungs out. The difference of their karaoke bar in Hanoi is that you have to list down the songs that you want to sing and give it to a staff so that they can load it into your room's video system. They didn't have a prepared list of songs where you can select and choose a number. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed that singing moment. Our song selection included classic, boy band and love songs.


Oh no, the night didn't end yet after that, Ha, Elena and I went to a bar to have some cocktail and enjoy music. The bar's name was 'The Bank' and it was packed with a lot of people. Their DJ was a foreigner but the sounds and lights were great and flashy. And yes, after that, we got tired and sleepy so we decided to call it a night. Besides, my day 2 in Hanoi required me to wake up early for a road trip.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Apply US Visa from UAE


I was blessed to be granted with multiple entry tourist visa valid for ten years. The steps were not that hard but make sure to have your documents and references ready. Actually, I have two friends who informed and advised me that it is easier to apply visa in US Embassy in Abu Dhabi than the consulate in Dubai. So it's up to you where you want to make your application but in my case, I followed their suggestion.

So below are the steps on how to acquire tourist visa. Be reminded that these are based from my experience and their procedures might change.
  1. Make sure you have a passport picture that was taken not more than six months. Information on the correct photo can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/photos.html. Prepare a scanned copy of it and use the photo tool on this website to crop the required size and face dimension.
  2. Complete the online application (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/). They call it DS-160 (Non-immigrant Visa Application). I would advise to prepare your resume and refresh your travel history. The application form will ask you about personal data, travel plan, family information, education, employment history, income and countries you have visited. After completing the form, it will give you unique number and a barcode.
  3. Next is to pay the visa application fee and make an appointment. Visit the page https://usvisa-info.com/. You will need to register and input all your details and I think the unique number from DS-160 form will be needed. On this step, you will be asked to pay and choose your preferred location of passport pickup.
  4. Lastly, make sure to arrive on your appointed date, time and location. I would advise you to go there one hour before your appointment and make sure to wear semi-formal attire.

On your date of appointment, make sure to have the following requirements:
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months.
  • Also, bring your old passport. It might contain stamps from other countries that you have visited.
  • Bring passport picture.
  • Bank statements for the last three months.
  • Letter from your employer stating position, start date and salary
  • Letter from your employer establishing purpose of travel.

In my experience, to be prepared, I brought all other important documents such as transcript of records, diploma, employment certificate and birth certificate. Though these were not required, it is still better to have them ready if the consul will ask for it. There were chances that they will still require further documents, proof and information.

So that's it, it isn't that hard right? So good luck to your application!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Quick Muscat Getaway

I've been going back and forth to Muscat, Oman for almost a year now due to business trips. But on the 14th of February (yes, Valentine's Day) I had the chance to have a quick tour around Muscat. That time, the weather was still good (still winter season) so roaming around the city was not that bad. My colleague from Vietnam office (Son) and I met in the hotel before lunch time (I still had to do some work in the morning).


We took a cab going to Qurum and found ourselves in a beach area. The place was nice and the hotel structure near the beach was a splendid view. Son decided to feel the water and took some photos in a cave. I didn't join him because I didn't want to remove my shoes haha. But still I enjoyed the scenery and the view. After that, we took quick refreshment from Starbucks and rested for a while.


From Qurum, we just walked to our next destination which was the world famous Royal Opera House. It is the renowned venue in Oman for culture and musical arts. We weren't able to go inside because there was no performance and it was closed. But still the view and the architecture style of the building is very elegant. The external finishing of the building was so delicately constructed resulting to a delightful scene.


After a few hours, we moved to Al Amerat Park via cab. Our client informed us that there will be some activities and exhibitions on that day. The entrance was free and there were numerous stalls and stage setups in the area. Also, some products and souvenirs from other countries were also on display (and of course for sale).


Other things we saw were some "mini" museum and a demonstration of the local culture and old ways of living. Some tourists enjoyed the free ride on a camel and a photo op near the locals. The weather was so perfect that time and the area and the view itself were wonderful in the eyes as it was situated near the mountains.


But the part that I really enjoyed that time was the group performance of the locals. It was like a parade of national dance and each culture's costume/dress. I had an LSS to one of the cheers and entire exhibition was so colorful. I was able to take a video of it. Though it was a very quick tour, I did enjoy it and at least I have experienced the other side of Muscat (not just work-related). I am sure that I will still visit some parts of Oman and right now, I am planning to go to Salalah by next month (hopefully).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mom & Sis in Dubai

Last 24th of January (I know this is a very late post), my mother and my sister visited me here in Dubai. My mom flew in from Manila while my sister was from Bucharest. It was a one week vacation for them and also, it was a part of my birthday celebration here. I had to leave them on their first day since I had a church activity so they just roamed around the area near my apartment and spent some time in Mall of the Emirates.


The next day, we went to Abu Dhabi. It was a tour from an agency so the transportation was easy. We went to Grand Mosque, Corniche, Heritage Village and Ferrari World. It was a whole day event. The minibus also took us to some landmarks in Abu Dhabi including the Emirates Palace, residence of the Sheikh and dates market. We had our lunch buffet inside the heritage village and we bought some souvenirs.


We visited the Miracle Garden on their third day. It was my first time visiting that place and I was amazed by the numbers of flowers (maybe that's why it was called miracle garden) they had. The entire place was colorful and the designs they created were really nice. I believe this garden is open only during winter as it is impossible to maintain it during summer when the heat of the sun is superb. Later that night, we had a Dhow Cruise around Dubai Marina. Our buffet dinner was also served in that cruise. It only took around two hours to navigate the surroundings of the marina.


On their fourth day, we spent our time in the Global Village. It was also my first time there and also opens only during winter. It is a place where different cultures from several countries were displayed and exhibited. There were several areas and booths where you can experience a bit of each country's customs. It is a very big area and my mother got tired. There were also some stores and food counters so we tried some of them. My sister and I bought some perfume (it was on sale) and souvenirs to be sent to Manila.


Sharjah and Ajman were our next destination. Unfortunately, my mother chose to rest as she was so tired and insisted to stay at home. So my sister and I got into a tour of the said emirates (it was also my first time). In Sharjah, we visited the Gold Souq where we bought a necklace with cross pendant. We also made a stop in a beach and rested for a while. In Ajman, we visited their famous museum.


Day number six was a visit to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. We went to the top of the building where we saw the majority of Dubai land. It was my second visit there; the first was with my father. After that, we had a quick visit around Dubai Mall and checked some stores. From there, we were picked up by tour agency that brought us to the Desert Safari. We just had our buffet dinner there and watched some performances (including belly dancing).


On their last day, we were able to squeeze in a quick visit near the Burj Al Arab (the only seven star hotel in the world) and in Atlantis. We went to the beach around the area and took some photo. Later in the afternoon, we drop my sister at the airport as she had an earlier flight than my mother. Then in the evening, my mother and I went to the airport, we had the same time of flight. She is returning back to Manila while I was heading to Muscat. It was a great and memorable experience spending quality time with them. Though it was short, it was still meaningful and my birthday week became better.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Airline Review Part 4


Qatar Airways – They call it the world's 5 star airline and indeed it was a great experience. The fleet was new and the seat was quite spacious. The entertainment was quite okay and there were numerous selections and options. The only thing I hated about my journey was that upon arrival, we had to transfer to a mini bus that brought us to the Doha airport (same thing for departure). I will understand this kind of setup if Qatar Airways is a budget carrier. Anyway, there was no much complaint with the service and it was a smooth and steady flight. (2013 Skytrax rating:  2nd world's best airline [behind Emirates] and world's best business class)

Gulf Air – This airline is so affordable! I was able to book a business class seat for a low price and the service wasn't bad at all. It was my tour in Nepal when I booked into Gulf Air. Though the total journey was only almost six hours (with stopover in Bahrain), the flight attendant ensured that I had everything I needed during the flight. I was all alone in the business class. What I really liked about this trip was the opportunity to use their lounge. There was a buffet dinner, free internet and sockets where you can connect your device/s to charge. Also, the seats inside the lounge were very comfortable and I was able to take a sleep (the layover was about 4 hours). Since I enjoyed this airline, I immediately enrolled to their Falcon membership. I will definitely use this airline again for my forthcoming Middle East trip. As of writing, I heard that they have terminated their route to Kathmandu. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)


Royal Brunei – It was 2009 when I acquired this airline's service. It was also my first trip alone as I was preparing for my Asian backpack tour. What I remember about Royal Brunei is that before departure, they took time to pray before departure and so far, it is the only airline that does such thing and I think that it was a nice gesture as I felt safer and assured of a wonderful journey. Also, the fleet was new and was very clean. The flight attendants were very attentive and helpful. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)
TAROM – This is the flag carrier of Romania and short for Transporturi Aeriene Romane. It was March 2013 when I booked a direct flight to Bucharest, Romania. It was very noticeable that the plane is quite old and not properly maintained. Honestly, I didn't like the uniform the flight attendants, it was very simple. I know I'm not an expert in fashion but it didn't fully represent the airline and the country. It was like plain blue and white. Nevertheless, the service wasn't bad at all but some of the flight attendants weren't smiling and if they were smiling, I think it wasn't genuine. Maybe they were tired that time. The in-flight foods and drinks were okay. Another good thing about this airline is that we departed and arrived on time and on schedule. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)

See also:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Getting OEC in Manila is Easier than in Dubai


My vacation in Manila last June 28 was my first time not getting an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) from Philippine Embassy/Consulate. Being an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) for more than five years and a frequent returning Filipino resident (more than 10 times I think), it is a major hassle to get such certificate for various reasons. First, in Dubai, the consulate is not open during weekends compared to Singapore where you can get OEC even Sundays. So you don't have a choice but to file a leave of absence just to get such document in Philippine Consulate in Dubai. Even if you take early lunch, trust me, 2 hours is not enough to finish the process. Second, the queue is always a major problem. Though there is a ticketing system, still the number of people processing their OEC is superb! They call it by batch and it is 20 people by hour. Third, the consulate is not that accessible; there is no train station that is walking distance so the only choice is to take a cab.


One of the first things that I did when I arrived in Manila was to look for the procedures on how to get OEC in POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) in Ortigas. The procedure is well defined and explained in their official website (http://bmappointment.poea.gov.ph). In my own experience, I did the following easy steps: (1) set an appointment using the system on the website (2) fill up the online information sheet then print it (3) go to the designated office based on your schedule and don't forget to bring all the requirements listed on the website (4) a staff will point you to the next steps which are assessment and payment (5) get your OEC from the cashier and you're done. All in all, the process did not take more than 30 minutes. Also, you can get multiple OEC in Manila but not in Dubai. So for me, it is more convenient now to process the document in Manila.  

First image taken from pinoy-ofw.com

A Breathe of Happiness



After almost a year, I had the chance to have a quick vacation in Manila. It was a multipurpose trip as I have to arrange some personal things and attend major events. Also, it was my first time to see the new house and lot that I bought for my parents. So aside from spending quality time with my family (by staying at home most of the time), I was a bit busy with other things. It started with my first nephew's baptismal. His full name is Cynder Marcus John M. Cona and yes, it is a long first name. The christening was held at Pasig Cathedral on the 30th of June with more than 10 pairs of godfathers/godmothers. Afterwards, the reception and feast of the food was organized in our new house. It was a simple celebration but the house was filled with relatives, friends and some neighbors.


Second thing is the bachelor's party that I have prepared for my bestfriend and of course, I am not going into details on what happened that night. I reserved a two bedroom suite at Linden Suites in Ortigas and the rest is history. As for the wedding proper, it was held at Mt. Carmel Parish on 6th of July where I stood as a bestman. Ryan, who is my bestfriend for over a decade now, was a bit nervous but was able to hide it in a gentle manner. Though the ceremony isn't perfect (there were some missing entourages during the march), it was a solemn and a great day for everyone. It was followed by a dinner reception at Fernwoods where I played the role of one of the masters of ceremony (emcee) and it wasn't an easy task but I think I was able to deliver.



The night did not stop after the reception. Since some of my classmates attended it, we had some sort of a "reunion". It was so nice seeing some of them and we had some talk and we shared some updates about our lives. The night continued to Starbucks in Eastwood where we had, of course, coffee and some pastries. We all enjoyed remembering those things that we did way back in college. The newlywed joined us after few hours and we filled the night with noise of laughter. There is a huge possibility that I will have my next vacation this Christmas and hopefully, I can organize a formal reunion for us. The happiness that I experience everytime I'm in Manila is really priceless. It can't be compared to any material things and being surrounded by family and close friends even for a short time is indeed helpful to move forward and aim for more goals.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's Going on Stock Market?


For the past few weeks, my portfolio isn't looking very good. It is like a blood bath on my screen. All is turning to red (loss) and yes, it is a bad news. But you know what? I am not really worried about it. Yes I am a bit concern but I have this inner confidence that says to me that everything will be alright. Oh well, the status update from one of my stock advisers (naks!) added an assurance that time will come that it will be all green (gain) and with Him, it's alright to fall sometimes because there is no way but up. Neil also said that this is where men separates from the boys and that only the brave ones survives and makes money.


I'm not really a technical analyst or very keen in checking the performance of my stocks. I just love reading news and forums and of course with the help of some friends and financial experts, I can choose the stock where I will invest. Well enough of the money matters; I researched on some probable causes why this is happening in the stock market. I have enumerated some reasons:

  1. Profit. The stock exchange index has reached to record breaking points and for many investors, it is a very good thing and it also means profit. Many investors are taking advantage of the percentage of gain from their portfolio so they were probably excited in taking in more money (I admit I am one of them haha)
  2. Foreign Investors. I also read and heard that many foreign investors are pulling out their money and transferring it to the recovering economy of the US. It means lesser investment in our part and it is a huge part in the gradually decreasing of the index point. Is there a way that the government should lessen the foreigner's privilege in getting stocks in our country? 
  3. Current News. I think that Serendra explosion thing have contributed to this. There was a huge concern that the cause was a bomb. This news spreaded wrongly as the investigation results did not come in a faster way. The terrorism news is very bad in a country and can whisper negative impact to neighboring countries, so bad means negative and negative means lower index points.
  4. Panic. Of course if your profit is slowly negating, you might want to sell your stocks just to avoid a total loss. My officemate sold his stocks in a panic mode even if it was a loss. Many of us are looking into a negative perspective that leads us to grab the profit immediately rather than checking the probable positive outcome in the near future. There is no shortcut in success.

Again, I am no expert in this thing and I still consider myself as a beginner in this field and I am sure there are more reasons why this is happening. It is a good thing that we are aware of these things rather than be ignorant to what's happening in the economy. It can also give us hope and pointing our eyes only to positive results. Well life isn't exciting without risks, just be prepared to what will be the result is, whether gain or loss.

Image taken from inquirer.net

 
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