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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Istanbul Trip Part 1

I had a "not so perfect" trip last December and it was in Istanbul. More details will follow on how I tagged this as an "imperfect" trip. Anyway, I arrived at Ataturk International Airport (IST) last 24th of December at around 2 PM. It was a crowded airport and I thought that it could be the holiday season that resulted into that. After clearing the immigration, I immediately planned my route going to hotel. Based on my research, the hotel's location is near the Beyazit tram station. I instantly took a train map and bought a train card.

Based on the map, from Airport station, I must alight at Zeytinburnu train station and should transfer to T1 route (tramway) heading to Kabatas and alight at Beyazit station. During the trip, I was able to observe the environment and surroundings of the city. The trip was also cheaper, I think, compared to taxi. I loaded 10 TKL and upon exit, it was deducted with around 2 TKL. There were lots of foreigners during that time. I started to locate the hotel and it was actually a 5 minute walk, yes, it was very accessible so it was a good choice of a place to stay. The hotel I stayed in was 'Best Western Plus' The President Hotel'.

If you want a free hotel pickup, make your reservation on Booking.com as they have that promo. I mistakenly booked mine in Agoda.com as it was a bit cheaper. Anyway, aside from it's great location, it is a 4 star hotel and has it's own fitness center haha. It was so cold that day and I'm not used to cold weather so I had a quick rest and tea first before going out and looked for a place to have my early dinner.

I found this 'Doce Cafe & Restaurant' which serves mostly Turkish foods and some western cuisine. I ordered bread and seafood pasta. It was actually okay and the price is quite cheap. They made a mistake initially about my order but changed it immediately upon knowing it. The servers were kind of nice and were asking me where I came from. Someone guessed Korea (can you believe that?!) and the other suggested Malaysia. Anyway, after that quick meal, I headed next to 'Grand Bazaar' which is less than a minute walk from the cafe.

The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) is one of the world's largest and oldest covered market in the world. It has around 3,000 shops that offer from delicacies, to souvenirs, spices, clothes and some Turkish items. I made some few rounds of the place and most of the stalls were closing already. I was informed that during winter, the bazaar normally closes at 7 in the evening. Since it was only my first day in Istanbul, I decided that I'll just buy souvenirs on my last day. I was so tired on my first day and didn't do anything afterwards. But hey, I was able to visit the fitness center and did some cardio exercises haha. More trip details will be posted and it will strictly about tourism. I will not discuss anything about business.

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