Monday, August 17, 2015

My US Trip Itinerary (2 Weeks)

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

US Trip - Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Serbian Trainers in Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Trip - Arizona

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

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

Monday, August 3, 2015

US Trip - Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

US Trip - San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

John Legend Live in Dubai

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

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

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

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

2nd video courtesy of Fleur Yennek-Butcher

Iftar Dinner @ Al Hallab

Iftar is the meal consumed by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan or the holy month. As a tradition in our office, we organized an iftar dinner with colleagues from SPb visiting Dubai for business matters. After considering several options, we booked tables in Al Hallab Restaurant at Mall of the Emirates.

The meal is a buffet style and I must say that there are variety of foods that you will enjoy. Our Russian colleagues enjoyed their meals. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very pleasant and very nice and the staff are really accommodating and helpful. The food option starts from appetizer to main course and dessert, all separated by big tables. I am very satisfied with the taste of the food, it is very different from other iftar meals that we had. The restaurant was full that time so if you want to eat there, better book early. Also, the buffet will end at 9PM but we stayed longer just to talk with each other and had a very wonderful time bonding with the Russian colleagues.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

US Trip - Miami

After the quick 'rest days' in Tampa, we headed to Miami via Megabus. Can you believe that we bought those tickets for only 1 dollar each? When I booked it online, I think it was on sale. Anyway, we reached our destination before 12PM. We checked in at 'Metropolitan by COMO' and I must say, the hotel is okay but not that great and it was a bit expensive when I booked it. We rested for a while then searched for a place to eat as were very hungry after the bus trip.

We found this place called 'Maxine's Bistro & Bar'. We were surprised with the serving, it was huge and we weren't able to finish all of them so we had a takeout.

We walked around the streets of Miami, around South Beach. It was raining that time so we really didn't enjoy it. So we decided to go back to hotel and rest instead. We also had drinks in the hotel's bar and ordered 'Singapore Sling' and 'Sleeping Volcano'.

The next day was more exciting. We had an early breakfast in the hotel. I think we were the first one in the restaurant. The breakfast meal wasn't that good. It wasn't a buffet so we had to order. We ate a simple omelet and a chicken/pork sausage. But the surroundings and atmosphere is kind of nice and properly designed.

After that, we walked around the beach. The weather was very good that time. We saw some tourists enjoying the water. We walked almost three hours and just enjoyed the sun and took some pictures. After that quick dip, we went to the streets and looked for some stores that are selling souvenirs. It was just a one day stay in Miami. We can't say that it was a great vacation but it was good enough to see this famous city. We will definitely come back to Miami but for sure it will be longer. See below video to see other pictures that we took.

Monday, June 22, 2015

US Trip - Tampa

After that quick tour in Washington DC, we flew next to Tampa, the "hometown" of Ne. We stayed for two days at their house. It was like a very smooth and relaxing two days as we only cooked and visited a Filipino store and a mall. I really liked the Ledet's house as it is very spacious and properly designed. I also liked the "old" stuff inside the house and their pool. I stayed in their guest room and Ne was kind enough to bring me new (newly washed?) bed sheets and blanket haha.

As I mentioned, we went to this Filipino food cafe named 'Filipiniana'. You can visit their Facebook page by clicking here. They are selling Pinoy delicacies and we ordered 'Halo Halo' that time. We went there with Ne's friend Sandy and her husband Steve.

The couple was very kind enough to drive us to one of the biggest malls in Tampa, the International Plaza. We just walked around the mall and checked some stall for some interesting things to buy but in the end, we bagged nothing. We really didn't spend much time to see other things around Tampa. Instead, we took the chance to rest and wash our clothes at the Ledet's mansion hehe.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

US Trip - Washington DC

From New York, we took a bus ( as early as 6 AM to visit the capital of the USA. It took us four hours to reach it. We headed directly to 'The National Mall'.  We spent almost whole day to walk around the park. Trust me, you must be prepared for a long walk but each stop was an unforgettable experience. The 'Washington Monument' was the first one who greeted us. It was actually built to commemorate the first American president.

Then we walked towards the 'National World War II Memorial', a memorial that was dedicated to the Americans who served during the World War II. 

Next stop was the very famous Lincoln Memorial; I have seen this place several times only in the movies but that time was a special one because it was just right in front of me. As we all know, it was built to honor Abraham Lincoln.

If you love watching thriller films that include the CIA, FBI or other security agencies, then US Capitol building should be familiar to you. Though we didn't get the chance to get inside, still it was a good sight and a chip of good memory for us. We were joking that every time we will see this building in movies, we can finally say to ourselves, "oh, I've been there" haha.

Of course who doesn't know the president's residential building, the 'White House’? Still, we didn't enter as it was impossible to get inside without an appointment with the world's most powerful man. But we were satisfied just to see it but it was strange to see that other tourists were waving 'Hi' to the building.

Then there was this 'Smithsonian Building' which was mentioned in Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol'. They also call it 'The Castle’ and was constructed of Seneca red sandstone in the faux Norman style. See below video to see more of the pictures we took in the national mall.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

US Trip - New York

September last year was my first time visiting United States. New York was my point of entry and from JFK airport, I met my very good friend Kristine (also known as 'Ne') who is a resident of Tampa, Florida. From the airport, we headed directly to our hotel. It was in Lexington Avenue where the cab drive dropped us. The hotel was DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Metropolitan and it was an expensive hotel and the room was very small. Nevertheless, after a few hours of resting (I had a red eye flight) we went out and roamed the big apple.

The streets are indeed very busy and a bit crowded. I was very amazed with some of the building architecture and at the back of my mind, I was trying to rewind some scenes from the movies and TV series that I have watched which had a NY location. We walked and walked until our feet brought us somewhere.

We passed by the Rockefeller Center where we rested (again) for a while. We also spotted the famous Radio City.

Finally, we reached the New York Times Square. Oh yes, the lights were astonishing and you can see tourists in every corner. The place is very famous for big screens and several stores near the area. We found a diner and attempted to eat there but once we saw the menu and the prices, we left and looked for a mini-store somewhere else haha.

The next day was more exciting. As early as 8 AM, we walked towards the Battery Park and bought tickets for a ferry ride. And finally, I saw the Statue of Liberty! It felt like I accomplished something big hehe. Seeing it right in front of me was unbelievable!

Our next stop was at Empire State Building and we were singing 'Empire State of Mind' all throughout the tour (of course we were not that loud). The view from the top was amazing and the weather was perfect. 

From there, we took the famous subway and looked for the 9/11 Memorial Park. When we reached it, it was raining so we just had a very quick look at the place. Play below video to see more pictures that we took during our New York trip.

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