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

***** UPDATE 25/10/2014 *****
 You can now get OEC online by visiting their website: http://bmonline.poea.gov.ph/. Below are the steps that you can follow (from gulfnews.com):
  • An applicant must first register his or her details using a working email address.
  • After verifying your account, log in. Make sure you have your documents with you: passport and visa copy, original OEC – must be issued in the Philippines.
  • Note: OECs issued in the UAE or other countries will not work for now (you need to get an OEC at least once from any of the POEA or OWWA office in the Philippines).
  • Fill out the information sheet. Key in your date of departure.
  • You will be led to an e-payment facility where you can choose to pay using online banking systems but they use Philippine banks only.
  • You may also use GCash or iRemit so you can pay at accredited exchange centres in the UAE. You may need to enrol your online banking if you prefer to use it, which may take time for some banks.
  • Upon payment, you will be led to the “self-print” option. Print three copies of your OEC along with the system-generated certificates and receipts that will be sent to you.

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

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Romania Trip - Bucharest


It was before lunch when my sister and I bid goodbye to Brasov. We were headed next to the Romanian capital, Bucharest. It was more than three hours of journey before reaching the city. We immediately checked in to Hotel Minerva to rest for a while. It was snowing that time so it was very cold. Our room was quite nice and clean and the view from my window was magnificent. After unpacking some things, we decided to go out and roam the city. Even though it was so cold and the snow was pouring heavily, we still went out to look for the nearest supermarket to buy some foods.


The next day, after a quick breakfast inside our room, we checked the city and navigated each of the alleys. I can say that Sibiu is way better than Bucharest in terms of order and cleanliness. Nevertheless, Bucharest is still an interesting place to explore. We saw some buildings with great style and architecture. The snow did not stop us from walking for almost three hours just to feel the atmosphere of the place. I noticed that there were bakeshops everywhere and the gogoshi became my instant favorite. We also found the Pope John Paull II cathedral and stayed inside for a while. I was glad to see some Filipino products in a store where we bought some items.


We came back to hotel to have our lunch and leave some things that we bought. Our next destination was the "Palace of the Parliament" (Palatul Parlamentului). I checked some details on the internet and found out that it is near the Izvor MRT station. One thing I love about Bucharest is their train transportation system. Back to the palace, it is the world's largest civilian building and the heaviest. Once you enter the building, you will notice numerous big chandeliers and big rooms. In 2008, the palace hosted the 20th NATO summit. Some of the rooms use natural light by getting directly from the sun. There was also this one room where a high official stayed who received several death threats so he ordered to stop the air circulation inside the room to ensure that he wouldn't be poisoned.


That day didn't end in the palace. We came to this big shopping mall via bus. Băneasa Shopping City offers varieties of retail shops and a huge food court. We had our big dinner there and I bought an Adidas shoes. Afterwards, we watched a movie then called it a day.


Our last day in Bucharest was a bit laid back. In the morning, we took a bus going to the "Arc of Triumph" (Arcul de Triumf) and took some few shots. We toured again the city a bit until it was time for my sister to go back to Sibiu. I had my flight going back to Dubai the next day morning. My Romanian trip is indeed a memorable one. I was able to spend it with my sister and had a wonderful and quality time with her. I fell in love with Romania especially the customs, the people and its music. More pics below:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Romania Trip – Brasov


After those fun days in Sibiu, my sister and I headed to Brasov. It was a three hour journey, good thing there is a minivan terminal in Sibiu. We tried to book for a bus and train but the timings weren't perfect. The journey was a bit scary as we were trailing dark roads and it was very cold. It was like a chilling moment while watching a horror flick and I was scaring myself by thinking, 'this is the place of Dracula and vampires'. Fortunately, we arrived in Brasov safe and sound.  From the terminal, we took a cab and located our hotel. I booked a hotel apartment but the cab driver and I noticed that it is too far from the city. The driver was too kind to recommend us a hotel near the city in an affordable price and when I saw it, it was perfect. We were both settled at around nine in the evening but still, we tried to navigate the city. Most of the shops were closed but we still managed to roam for a short time. Since it was snowing and was very cold (it was -6 degrees Celsius), we decided to call it a night.


We woke up early the next day because I was so excited to visit Dracula Castle. It was snowing that day and I was concern that it might be closed but fortunately, it was open. From Bus Terminal 2, there are buses that leave every 30 minutes to Bran; I think the ticket was 5 RON and one and half hour of journey. I was immediately amazed when I saw the castle and yes you can see a full smile on my face, another dream came true! There were other tourists on that time but my sister told me that during summer, more tourists are coming so we were lucky that day because it wasn't that many and it was a good chance to roam the castle without any hindrances during picture taking haha. To see the entire castle, it might take you three to four hours to check each of the corners. It is very obvious that some parts of the castle were renovated but still, there are some interesting things like the cape of Dracula, his old room, the torture room and some items from the queen. It was indeed a very fulfilling day.


There were several souvenir shops outside the castle so we bought some items. Also, we had our lunch in a Chinese restaurant (yes, there is!) across the street and the foods were delicious and very affordable. We headed back to Brasov and we were able to see the city during daylight. We visited the Town Hall Square (Piata Sfatului) which features medieval buildings in different architecture styles. We also visited the Black Church (Biserica Neagra) but unfortunately, it was close that time so we just got contented in appreciating the outer part of the church.  It is the largest and one of the most important Lutheran places of worship in the region.


The snow didn't stop us in walking and touring the city. We don't have a definite destination that day (after the Dracula castle) but we were looking for that famous cable car. So we found ourselves walking for almost an hour just to reach that place in Tampa. It is actually a mountain part in Brasov on which from the top, you will see the entire beauty of Brasov. We were able to catch the last ride that day and on top of the mountain, the view was picturesque. We took some pictures there but we weren't able to walk further as the snow was so thick. It was actually a short visit in Brasov but it was an amazing experience. It was also a good thing that I was prepared for such kind of weather since I was not completely recovered from my illness last January. More Brasov pictures can be seen below:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Romania Trip - Sibiu


My sister has been working in Sibiu for five years now and one of the main reasons why I traveled to Romania was to visit her. From the international airport in Otopeni, I took a bus from the basement that brought me to Gara de Nord, a train station in Bucharest. From there, I immediately looked for a store to buy a sim card and luckily, the man in the store was so helpful despite the fact that he can't understand and speak English. I used some signs and point on a sim card and because of that I was able to call my sister. He even helped me to purchase a ticket for my Sibiu trip; I was touched by his actions and the kindness that he showed me. At 10:30 AM, the train departed the station and it was a five-hour journey towards the Romanian province.


Upon arrival in Sibiu, I took a cab and went straight to my hotel (Hotel Rin). I unpacked some things, had my late lunch and rested for few hours. At around 11PM, my sister went into my hotel (she wasn't able to pick me up in the airport since she was working that day) then we headed into her house. She is living with 2 colleagues, Esmeralda and Lhala who were waiting for us so that we can go together in a bar. It was 1 degree Celsius that night and it was indeed so cold. Initially, we went to this Irish pub where I met some Romanian friends (Romina and her cousins) of my sister but we wanted to dance so we transferred to a bar named Oldie's (don't be fooled by the name). It was jam-packed that night but we still managed to get a place, drank and danced. We left the place before 2AM.


The next day, after a free breakfast from the hotel, my sister and I, together with her two friends, Esmerald and Gay, strolled the old town. There, I witnessed the beauty of this city where several great architectures can be seen. Several designs of churches were also on "display". Our plan was to climb up to the clock tower but it was under renovation so we weren't able to do it. Nevertheless, we walked for almost two hours to feel the breeze of the place and cold was embracing us tightly. The place and the surroundings are so clean and the old buildings were still impressive. After that tiring moment, we went back to my sister's place to eat and have some coffee.


After a quick rest, we went to Muzeul Astra. It is actually a museum but in different approach. Normally, when we say museum, it is a showcase of paintings, art crafts, culture, etc in a room or big building. But this one, it is a big field and open area that requires hours of walking to navigate the surroundings. The museum exhibits the old life of Romanian people including the old houses, tools for farming and food preparation. At first, it was like I was just in a province but once you see the representation of Romanian culture, then you will embrace their nature and realize that there is something more in that place. We were lucky enough to meet a "museum guide" and I was amazed how these Filipino ladies were able to communicate in the Romanian language.


On my third day in Sibiu it was Palm Sunday so I accompanied my sister to church and the entire mass was in Romanian language but there were papers with English translation for foreigners. After that, I met Sofia and we headed to their home where a special lunch was waiting for me. I was so touched that they took time to prepare meals for me. Sofia's husband, Sorin, a Romanian baked a cake for that occasion; I was astonished by their hospitality. I also met Sorin's mom who also prepared a dish that day. The foods were all delicious and I really loved the chili mixture that they prepared. But before that sumptuous meal, we have drunk a special wine first as a tradition. They gave me a bottle of chili and wine and I brought them here in Dubai.


Afterwards, together with Sofia and Sorin, we went to a Romanian Art Gallery (Palatul Brukenthal) where taking pictures inside the vicinity is prohibited. The place actually showcases amazing paintings from the locals that exhibits the old and modern life of Romanian people. There are also some portraits of known personalities. On the other part of the gallery is a display about vampires and old artifacts of the country. Later that day, we walked around the city for almost two hours then we decided to take a rest in a bar where I met their other colleague, Girish; we had beer and snacks. The next thing we did is to look for the perfect way of going to Brasov for our next day's trip. My sister and I were planning to visit the Dracula house in Bran, a province near Brasov. The next day, I visited my sister's workplace in Mercuria and the area is so big. I can't believe that my sister can operate such huge machine for weaving. We didn't take much time to tour the entire place as we were leaving for Brasov that time. More Sibiu pictures below:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One Year in Dubai


Exactly one year ago, I entered Dubai for the first time and I bid farewell to Singapore. It was actually an emotional day for me. Singapore has been my second home and a lot of memories, good and bad, made me who I am now. My one year experience here in Dubai is very challenging. The first few months were the time of adjustment. I was alone most of the time because I stayed alone in a hotel apartment for a month. The job was a bit stressful at first as I had to complete the training with a passing grade. I only have few friends here unlike in Singapore where I have a lot.

My life here in Dubai is a bit slow and everything seems to be relaxed. I found a church, met new friends via small group and continued my path towards Him. My job became demanding but most of the time, it was boring. I joined Fitness First and started to lose weight with the help of my trainer who eventually became a good friend. I also had the chance to travel again (my favorite thing to do) and in a span of one year, I was able to tour three countries: Nepal, Turkey and recently Romania where I spent quality time with my sister. I also got the chance to take a vacation in Manila and Singapore after staying here for only four months. My boss was kind enough to approve my leave. My father visited me here and I really enjoyed those times. It was one of the highlights of my stay here and every minute of it was priceless. A college friend also came here for a business trip but still, we got the chance to see each other and spent quality time and reminisced the past that we had during the college years including some gossips and updates.

The challenges started when I struggled in my job and I felt I was left alone and the work wasn't that fulfilling. Also, I got sick this year and it was really bad. I had Bell's palsy and I almost gave up that time as it was very painful. There were no family members who took care of me but I was able to recover with the prayers from them and also from close friends. I think that was the lowest point of my life here in Dubai. But it was not always sadness; I was able to buy a house and lot for my parents and that brought me a great joy. Also, I am now an uncle since my sister gave birth to a baby boy. Life is indeed full of obstacles that we must overcome. My experience here in the Middle East taught me how to be more independent, how to handle sadness, enjoy happiness and how to embrace the gladness and pain of love related matters. It will be a long journey to fulfill my dreams but I am not really sure if Dubai will answer all of it. Well, I survived Dubai for one year, let's see how it goes. Some things might happen and I'm not sure where opportunities will bring me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Yes, Tattoo


Many were surprised when I inked myself last 1st of March (1.3.13). It has been my plan for three years to get one but can't decide where to do it. The design is the Philippians 4:13 verse. For me, getting a tattoo is a personal decision. I did this as a declaration and profession of my love to Him, that with Him, I can do everything. I've been through a lot for the past years but I am still glad that I have experienced those tests because it made me stronger and taught me a lot of lessons. I will not justify my act in terms of biblical factors as I don't want make a statement that might lead to argument. My personal relationship with Him is still intact and will always be strong.


The artist was my high school classmate (Melvin Miranda) and when I saw his works on his Facebook account, I knew he was the perfect man to do the job. He was so frank to tell me that it will hurt and yes, it was painful but I managed to stay calm but the sweat on my legs was the proof that I was so nervous that day. The session took almost two hours and it was the longest two hours of my life but the result was good. I went home immediately to wash it, clean it with an antibacterial soap and apply Vaseline lotion. Before having it, I made a research about the aftercare. The tattoo artist won't have any responsibilities in taking care of a tattoo after the session. I read the aftercare tips and learned some few things. First, you need to apply cream on the wound (yes, tattoo is an open wound) three times a day for first three days (I used Bepanthen). Going to work, I have to cover it with a bandage so the art will not be destroyed. On the fourth day, the tattoo should be applied with a cream that is colorless and fragrance free. In my case, I used Eucerin Aquaphor and after 5 days, my tattoo was completely healed but I still applied the same cream for the next 10 days. In getting a tattoo, you should think it a million times and assess your true motive before having it. I am not encouraging you to get a tattoo unless you are sure and no one is influencing you to make such decision.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Personal Trainers in Singapore

I transferred to Singapore last 2008 to work in a French financial services company. I can say that I was physically fit during that time but since it was a new environment for me, I forgot about the words diet and workout and tried several foods and was so lazy to go to gym. I gained a lot of weight and fats and the rest was history. Fitness First has always been my gym so I enrolled for a membership after a few months.


I received a call from a trainer asking for some workout trials with him and that time, I thought it was a chance to get back in shape so I agreed. Then I met Ashraf Stephen and I could say that the workout we did was really good so I signed up for 30 sessions worth 2,000 SGD. I learned new workout routines that I haven't experienced from my previous trainers. Also, he taught me some modification on some machines/equipments in case the required item isn't available for use. He knows what he is doing and being in the fitness industry for years I can say that he is a good trainer. On his personal side, what I remember is that he is from Great Britain, converted to Islam, married to a Singaporean and they have two kids. I was about to renew the sessions with him when he got another job from other fitness center and I still have a contract with Fitness First so I can't move to other gym that time. His work experience is considerably one of the best and in the fitness industry since 2005. He was a personal trainer in California Fitness and now working in Sky Fitness in Harbourfront both in Singapore. Other qualifications include (1) Advanced Personal Trainer, Asian Academy for Sports & Fitness Professionals (AASFP) / (2) PTS, Resisted Movement Training, American Council of Exercise / (3) CPR & AED Certified. His motto: "Tomorrow Never Comes". He once told me that he was joining (I forgot the exact name) Singapore's Strongest Man. After my 30 sessions with him, I felt stronger and more active again. I also noticed some improvement in my body and I regained my endurance. Ashraf is a very good person and trainer; currently we are still in contact with each other and will definitely see him when I visit Singapore again. So if you want his professional expertise then go now to Sky Fitness and acquire his services.


A good friend of mine encouraged me to workout with her and at the same time, referred me to her personal trainer. She introduced me to Don Abaya. Since I noticed a big improvement to my friend's shape (she became sexier and lost a lot of weight), I was convinced to hire him as my PT. So I signed up for 50 sessions for around 3,000 SGD. After few sessions, I started to enjoy his workout routines and his techniques to improve me not only physically but also on mental thinking about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. He talks a lot and you can't stop him once he started talking. He is an all-around trainer; he knows boxing, core training and TRX. Before entering the fitness industry, he used to work in a clinic and was a medical representative in Manila. He entered and started to be a personal trainer when he joined Slimmer's World (a famous fitness center in the Philippines). He was a junior trainer then eventually became the head trainer. What's really good about him is that he is a licensed physical therapist so I can basically say that he knows what he is doing in terms of muscle, joints or other physical related matters. Don is in the fitness industry for more than 10 years now and working in Singapore since 2009. Now, he is an elite trainer and working in California Fitness at Orchard Road. When I confirmed that I'll be transferring to Dubai, I tried to finish all the remaining sessions with him. Sometimes I book 2 hours and it was almost everyday haha. He did not complain and by that, I was encouraged to do and give more to our workout routines. He is a hardworking person and a very good man. He has a lot of sense of humor that we can talk anything under the sun. After my training with him, I noticed a huge advancement on my physical attributes and I can really say that I was transformed into something better. I formed some amount of muscles and I became comfortable again in running. I used to have a muscle pain for small amount of activities but eventually, Don taught me the correct way and position of working out to avoid joint problems. I still have a contact with him until now and we remained friends. So hey, go now to California Fitness and get this guy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Istanbul Trip Part 4


I woke up early on my 4th day since it was my last day in Istanbul. I wasn't feeling well that time and the headache was killing me. Nevertheless, I packed my bags and left the hotel after my breakfast. I walked directly to Hagia Sophia (about 15 minutes) and queued then waited for it to open. It was before 9:00 AM but there were numerous tourists already lining up. The entrance fee is 25 TL; it was once a mosque then converted into a museum and is famous because of it's massive dome. The place offers impressive architectural design and creative arrangement of lights. Also, you can explore the "second floor" but you have to climb up in a labyrinth-like passage. There were souvenir shops and some display of art. Some part of the museum prohibits the use of camera especially on the mosaic exhibition. The place is a bit huge and the atmosphere boasts it's rich culture.


Topkapi Palace is also walking distance from Hagia Sophia and the entrance fee is also 25 TL. It was originally the primary residence of the sultans and royals. I must say, it is a wide place. There were several entrances that lead to different buildings and semi museums where photo taking is also not allowed. The palace is preserving important relics especially Muhammed's cloak and sword. UNESCO gave the World Heritage Site title to this place on the year 1985 and indeed, it deserves the award. What I really liked was the garden area where I think the royalties used to relax with a view of the sea and refreshing air. There were also some "mini mosques" on which a certain piece of historical item is being displayed and the internal design is so beautiful. The complex also has hundreds of rooms that used to be a royal bath, dormitories, jewelries storage room, meeting hall and a sole room for circumcision.


My last stop that day was the Miniaturk. I headed to Eminonu tramway station and from there, I took a cab going to this place since it isn't accessible thru trains and walking isn't possible. The fare was around 30-40 TL. As I arrived there, I remembered a place that I went to in Shenzhen, China; it was like 'Windows of the World'. Miniaturk showcases the miniatures of all Turkey's famous landmarks, buildings, mosques, government buildings and other historic structures. It also covers non-Istanbul spots. It is one of the world's biggest miniature parks with a total land area of 650,000 sq ft. Also, there are these speakers with button that you need to press so that a voice will be heard explaining about a certain miniature.


For more pictures about my Istanbul Trip, you can click here to view it. It was a short but very memorable trip. Istanbul taught me the lesson about handling personal items carefully and how to manage and survive in a cold environment. Istanbul is a very beautiful place and I really admire the transport sector of the city. I will definitely come back here if given a chance.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Obtaining Romanian Tourist Visa in Dubai


I've been planning to visit my sister in Romania for almost three years now. When I was in Singapore, I started to gather information for the required documents and even searched for the Romanian embassy's location. But due to some financial adjustments and other priorities, it wasn't pushed through. Nevertheless, when I transferred here in Dubai, the plan came back to life. It is actually way better since the plane ticket is much cheaper and will only take me 5 hours of journey.

My three main reasons on why I want to visit Romania are first, to visit my sister. Second is to see Dracula's castle and lastly, the recognition of Sibiu (a major city) as Europe's Center for Culture in 2007. Getting tourist visa is easier than Turkey's except for the consulate location. The first time I went there, I had to use Google Maps just to direct the taxi driver of the location. For the requirements, you won't need salary certificate and 'No Objection Certificate' from your employer which means they won't be aware of your whereabouts during your leave. For the requirements, you will need the following:
  • Airline ticket
  • Hotel booking
  • Travel insurance
  • 3 Months bank statement
  • 2 passport photos
  • Passport & residence permit (also a copy)
  • Duly accomplished application form (of course)
You have to pay 330 AED upon the submission of the documents. As for the location, you just need to say to the cab driver: Jumeirah 1 12B St, behind Spinney's and opposite Beach Road. If you have a car, better to use GPS and locate 12B Street in Jumeirah 1.

***** UPDATE 25/10/2014*****
I applied tourist visa last week as I will go to Bucharest this coming Christmas. And good news, the visa application is now easier. You just need to visit their eVisa website: http://evisa.mae.ro/. The process would be the following:
  1. Click the Apply Visa link.
  2. Then you will select which visa type you will need.
  3. Upon registration, a unique number will be sent to your email so that if you choose to continue the application  on some other day, you will this and your chosen password.
  4. After completing the registration and information, you will need to upload the same requirements stated above.
  5. Next is to submit the application via 'Send File' link and you will need to wait once they validated it. They will send confirmation in your email.
  6. Lastly, they will send the application date and time. You can reschedule it if you want by visiting the same address.

Below is the picture of their office schedule:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Istanbul Trip Part 3


Eminonu station was the main destination on my third day in Istanbul. It was around 9:00 AM when I purchased a ticket for Bosphorus Tour first before heading to New Mosque; it was just a walking distance. As a tradition and respect, the shoes should be removed before entering the mosque. New Mosque is one of the best known sights in Istanbul. The mosque alone has 66 domes and semi-domes which make it a nice architectural view. Inside, you will notice tremendous designs on each of the domes and the sight was picturesque. The lights were so beautiful and creatively arranged to expose the greater side of the mosque.


Just beside the New Mosque is the Spice Bazaar which is the second largest covered shopping complex (after Grand Bazaar) in Istanbul. The name itself explains why it was called Spice Bazaar. Upon entering, you will notice that several spices are being sold in most stalls. There were also glass wares, dried fruits and some tea products. It is an 'L'-shaped building. Currently, it is still the center of spice trading in Istanbul. Unfortunately, I didn't buy anything from the bazaar but the place was crowded with several tourists acquiring free taste and purchasing some products.


It was after an hour when I boarded the ferry for the Bosphorus Tour. Bosphorus is also known as Istanbul Strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. If you have seen Taken 2, there was a scene where Liam was riding in a ferry with his daughter and pointing out Europe and Asian part of Istanbul. Anyway, it was a total of 4 hours journey (back and forth) on which I really enjoyed seeing the amazing views of Istanbul represented and divided by waters. The tour showed Istanbul's beautiful house architectures and old buildings. I also noticed that there are many Turkish flags along the strait. The ferry made several stops to pick up some passengers and eventually ended in Anadolu Kavagi where we had 2-3 hour stop.


In Anadolu Kavagi, you will see many seafood restaurants where the staffs are all smile inviting you to dine in with them. But the first thing that most of us tourists did was to climb up the hill and reach the Yoros Castle. From the top, you will see the refreshing view of the Black Sea meeting Bosphorus. I rested for a while there and observed the surroundings and it felt like the winds were embracing me and whispering to me that life is indeed beautiful. After a while, I went down to look for something to eat. I found this restaurant that has a heater inside to unleash the coldness temporarily. I boarded the ferry after an hour that took me back to Eminonu.


From Eminonu, I rode the tramway and headed to Taksim Square. It is the top destination for tourists because of it's leisure things such as restaurants, shops and hotel. It is also considered as the heart of Istanbul. Once you see the "Monument of the Republic", then you can say that you in Taksim Square. The shopping street is so huge and every corner has special retail stores. I took some time to buy souvenirs and good thing I learned some Turkish phrases for shopping purposes. It was a long and tiring day but very fulfilling.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WhatsApp For Desktop


WhatsApp is a very useful application across several platforms and the most preferred communication tool by most of the netizens. I am using an iPhone 5 and it irritates me sometimes the difficulty to type messages since I have big fingers and I can hit two letters at one touch. I am an OCD and it really messes my mind when I don't use correct spelling and proper punctuation marks. Since I am a fast typist (up to 86 WPM based on typingtest.com), I researched if there is a WhatsApp for desktop. Fortunately, I found one but not exactly. It was an Android tablet simulator.


Anyway, the most important thing is that I can now use WhatsApp just like YM or Skype. The first thing you should do is to download the application in this link: BlueStacks. Afterwards, install it and voila, you have an Android tablet simulator. You just need to configure or login with your Google account then go to Android App Store and search for WhatsApp. Install the app and you can start using it. But be reminded that you can only use one number per device (of course BlueStacks is not a device but it is a simulator so consider it one). My iPhone is using my Dubai number so for this device, I have signed up my roaming (Manila) number.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Istanbul Trip Part 2


I decided to walk around the area the next day and explore the surroundings to feel the Istanbul culture. I was actually planning to tour the city and I had a plan on my mind until I saw this tourist bus. An agent showed me some leaflets and explained to me about the route of the bus. It cost me 25 TKL and it was a combination of Green and Blue lines. It was City Windows Travel company, I was encouraged to hop on the bus when I saw other tourists acquiring the service. 


The first ride was the Green Line (Golder Horn Tour); it was around 9:30 AM until past 2 PM. [as advertised from their website]: Golden Horn Route offers a combination of culture, history and nature. While exploring the unique beauties of Golden Horn, you will also make a cultural journey through different civilizations and the depth of spiritual side of the City. Starting from Hagi Sofia, the bus goes through Sirkeci Train station and Yeni Mosque to reach Golden Horn where meets all three religions' significant highlights: Aya Nichola Church, The Ecumenical Fener Patriarchate, the centre of Ortodox world; Ahrida Synagogue and Jewish Hospital and Eyüp Sultan Mosque and Tomb, one of the most visited Muslim religious sites. Then Eyup district, the Cable car that connects to Pierre Loti hill will be passed. Following Handan Aga, Aynalı Kavak Palace and Bankacılar street, the bus get back to the starting point via Ataturk Bridge.


Around 3PM, the Blue Line (Bosphorus Sightseeing) started to take off and it lasted for 2 hours. [as advertised from their website]: You may not have enough time to spend around in order to feel the same way as the poet. But, at least, this tour offer the easiest and best way to obsorve all the major highlights of this City of romance, history, culture and natural beauty, with eyes open. It promises to be an experience to remember! Like all our other tours, it departs from Hagi Sofia. Going through Old City monuments, it extends to Besiktas and Taksim area to allow the observance of more modern monuments and then continues with Bosphorus and the Bridge, in which East meets West, Heaven joins Earth and the wonder of nature unites with history and excotism. After having a break at Beylerbeyi Palace which allows observance of Europe from Asia, the bus goes back the the starting poing following the same route. For full route, please read Night Tour and check the route map. 


All in all, it was more than six hours of trip and it was not that bad. In a short span of time, I was able to see most of the tourist spots in Istanbul (though the picture taking was a bit difficult). The start and end point of the tour is in Sultahnamet Tram station where Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are located. So I took a quick snapshots of these famous mosques and bought a scarf and gloves in the park. Unfortunately, due to carelessness, I lost my iPhone 4S. I reported it to the police and asked for a police report so that I can reimburse it to my travel insurance but the police said they can't provide it since I wasn't sure if it was stolen or I just misplaced it. It was an unfortunate event but I have learned my lesson well. Well, it was a part of the experience.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Motivations to Exercise


I've been taking my workout seriously now and the results were tremendous. It's not just that I lost 10.5 kilograms (23 lbs) of weight in two months but it also changed my lifestyle. But the most important thing is that I feel healthy inside and out. I've been very fit before but due to some situations and instances, I started to put fitness as a lower priority and then I grew big. Anyway, I can say that I am trying my best to back on track. I spend almost 5-6 days a week in the gym but I'm not complaining; it's my choice.

So I checked what changed me and what motivated me to do this routine. I was so laid back 3 months ago and had plenty of reasons and excuses not to exercise. Then I realized that I did some stuff that altered my attitude. I know I'm not an expert in giving advise to exercise but I can share the things that I did to push myself.
  1. Get a Trainer. I initially saved money before getting a trainer because I know how expensive it is to get one. Trainers are there to motivate you and give you advise on the correct exercises and execution of the routine They can even give you nutrition facts and foods that you should and shouldn't eat. They will push you to your limit and assist you in anything that you need to improve yourself.
  2. The Clothes Factor. Buy a new shirt or jeans that are smaller your size. Try to fit it every week and as long as it is not perfectly suited to your form then it means you need to work harder haha. In my case, I have my old shirts that I call "target shirts". These were my clothes when I was on my great shape and so far, some of them can fit into me now but I know I still need to work harder.
  3. Cheat Day. I have this attitude to have a cheat day every month. It is like a day when I can eat anything I want if I lose weight for that month. It is also like a self-reward that after those days of sweat and eating the same food almost everyday, then you can have the chance to eat everything but, only and if there is a reduction in your weight.
  4. Inspiration Factor. You should have an inspiration in reaching your goal. It could be someone that you are trying to impress. But for me, I normally read or watch inspiring videos on how they were able to reach such fit shape from the stage of being obese. It helps me a lot because they are real stories and you can really see the transformation and who knows, it could be your story that will inspire others soon.
  5. Special Events. Upcoming events or celebrations also motivate me and help me to get focus on my routine. For example, I was scheduled to run on a marathon last month so I worked hard for it but since I was sick, I wasn't able to do it. But hey, summer is coming and I'll be attending a reunion party soon. Also, I'll be the bestman in my bestfriend's wedding this July so I have to look good.
  6. Progress Tracking. Every month, I weigh and measure myself to check the progress and development of my body. My trainer normally explains to me the things I need to improve and the things where I excel. If the result is okay, of course it will push me and encourage me more to continue what I am doing. But if the result is negative, I can take it as a challenge and work harder. So basically, it's a win-win situation haha.
The list could be longer for others but the above things are the major motivations that I currently have now. They say that the only difficult about having a perfect routine is how to start. But once you started and felt the changes, then it is very hard to stop. It is true! Now I feel guilty everytime I skip a day in gym; but be also reminded that we should listen and respect our body. Once we feel tired or not well (meaning the truth and not just being lazy or making excuses) then we should take rest or consult a doctor if possible.

Image taken from diabetesamerica.wordpress.com

 
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